The Vanished Spanish Empire, Vatican City and the Pope Still Have Control over the Philippines

Pope Francis in Tacloban City (Photo from Yahoo)

Through the hacienda system, ruling class and Roman Catholic Church


It is already over a century ago, since 1898, when Filipinos drove away the Spanish colonists but the vanished Spanish empire and the Catholic church still rule the Philippines to a large extent. How is that?

Through the encomienda/hacienda system

The king of Spain awarded vast tracks of land to Spanish colonists to ensure their loyalty. The king also awarded vast tracks of lands to natives, mostly datus or local chieftains, who were loyal to Spain. These vast tracks of land are called encomienda that today is more known as hacienda. A hacienda consists of hundreds or thousands of hectares.

That is, a hacienda is owned by the awardee by means of the Roman concept of property: privately owned including the natives inhabiting the hacienda. The hacienda was titled (in Spanish) to the awardee.

When the authority of Spain over the Philippines was cut off by the Filipino revolutionaries, the Spanish titles to these haciendas remained. The descendants of the original awardees took over them. Some descendants were of Spanish blood or hybrids of native and Spaniards who opted to become Filipinos upon the establishment of the First Philippine Republic.

Hacienda as base of economic and political powers

Ownership by the heirs of these haciendas has been perpetuated up until now. That is, the Spanish titles to them are still being recognized by the Philippines.

Exploiting the harvests from these haciendas and labor of natives the heirs have enriched themselves. With the installation of a democratic form of government, the heirs hold in their hands extra cash to buy elective positions in government. They can get themselves elected by means of money, fraud, graft and corruption, guns and goons.

Now Philippine Congress is largely occupied by heirs of hacienderos, called traditional politicians or trapos. Some congressmen/woman and senators are mavericks, power-climbers and get-rich-by-own efforts. Senator Gregorio Honasan, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV are mavericks; Congressman Manny Pacquiao (world boxing champion) has come to Congress through his own efforts: boxing. Some movie actors have come to Congress and even climbed to the presidency by having played roles in the movies that the voters have identified with. The voters have entertained false hopes that they would assume their roles in the movies once in the political position. (Ex-president Joseph Estrada was a movie actor; he was charged of plunder, tried and convicted to life imprisonment, pardoned by Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo).

But mavericks or by-own efforts, or movie actors, have joined the trapos. All of them constitute the ruling class in the Philippines.

Members of the ruling class have betrayed the poor masses. They now attend to their own interests. First, they have perpetuated the hacienda system because it is the basis of their economic and political powers.

Land reform

Ownership of haciendas had been seen as harbinger of social injustice since the time of Pres. Manuel L. Quezon of the Philippine Commonwealth (1935-1946). There had been efforts to break up the hacienda but these were resisted by the ruling class.

The Americans who made the Philippines part of their empire (1902-1946) did not break up the haciendas either because the landlords were their conduits in controlling the Philippines. The Americans introduced a new means of land ownership, the homestead. Some 24 hectares or less of virgin forest in the plains were awarded to a family who could eventually acquire ownership by cultivating the land.

The homestead system has created a middle class. However, it has gone short in creating a ruling class as an alternative to the ruling class based on hacienda. Heirs of the homestead system have become employees of government offices and private enterprises. Some got themselves elected to lower political positions like councilor, mayor, and governor. A few of them have become congressman. But they have not forged a force to challenge the trapos.

Or worse, most of them have joined the trapos.

It is amazing that not one of the congressmen/women and senators sponsored a bill to extend the land reform law! Not one of the mavericks did. We could not expect Miriam Defensor-Santiago to do so because she was the one who laid down the framework to turn hacienda Luisita into a corporate land reform, according to Nilo Tayag, former member of the Pulitburo of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Tayag says she did that as secretary of the Department of Land Reform when Corazon C. Aquino was president.

In a corporate land reform, the tenants are given stock certificates instead of pieces of land. That is, a tenant with a stock certificate is a shareholder of a corporation. The Supreme Court had promulgated a decision for the distribution of pieces of land to 6000 farmers.

Party-list

The present constitution provides for party-list. Some 20% of the House of Representatives may represent sectors of society unrepresented by the trapos, like the tricycle sector. But even when this 20% materialized, it could not overpower the trapos, mavericks, movie actors, and get-by-own efforts. A loophole has been created on the party-list. It is enough that a party-list advocates for a sector and not necessary for its candidate to be practitioner. For example, Mike Arroyo, son of former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, is a party-list representative of a tricycle sector. However, Mike does not make driving a tricycle his means of livelihood.

Land reform got a huge headway by the sponsorship of Pres. Diosdado Macapagal in the 1960s when a land reform law was enacted by Congress and signed into law by Macapagal. However, this land reform law included only rice lands and excluded sugar lands and fruit trees lands (including coconuts).

Since then land reform law has not expanded to include sugar lands and fruit tree land. Instead, the land reform law for rice land had been terminated on June 30,2014. The hacienderos have consolidated their power. It is not surprising that it happened during the present reign of Pres. Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III whose family is part owner of hacienda Luisita consisting of 6,400 hectares. So far only 1000 hectares had been distributed to tenants.

Conspiracy with the Catholic Church

Spain conquered the Philippines with the sword and the cross in 1527. Lapu-lapu of Mactan, Cebu defied both. However, many of the datus succumbed including a hitherto fierce datu in Batangas who eventually changed his name to Laurel supplied by a Spanish priest (Nick Joaquin. Doy Laurel)..

The Philippine Revolution of 1896-98 cut off the political arm of the Spanish empire but left the Catholic church intact. Only the separation of the church and state has touched the Catholic church. The Catholic church has made this as a shield against paying taxes to the Philippines.

History says that Andres Bonifacio read accounts of the French revolution of 1799 when the representatives of the poor asserted themselves as constituting the true congress of France. The French revolutionaries abolished the privileges of the nobles and the clergy and installed a constitution of the church. It is highly probable that if Bonifacio had not been killed by the cohorts of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo Bonifacio could have adopted the ways of the French revolution. Under his leadership, the haciendas could have been broken up and distributed to the poor who could cultivate the land.

[I have another Hub on how the group of Aquinaldo grabbed power from Bonifacio, the link: http://conradofontanilla.hubpages.com/hub/Extremes-that-the-Rich-Ruling-Class-of-the-Philippines-had-done],

The tracks of lands occupied by the Catholic church (possessed and controlled) could have been expropriated. These have remained untouched by the ruling class up until now. That is why there is a Vatican City State empire in the Philippines today. Possession is 90% of ownership, according to Sen. Franklin Drilon, a lawyer.

Vatican City State

Towards the end of 1800s Spain waned as a world power, its colonies in Asia, Central America, North America and South America had liberated themselves, or were sold like Puerto Rico and the Philippines having been sold to USA. Civil war weakened Spain that Franco turned into a dictatorship with the support of the Catholic church. In World War II, Spain remained neutral. It no longer had power over the Philippines, its power has been extended by Filipino landlords, heirs of haciendas.

Before WWII Italy had been consolidated into one kingdom where the Roman Catholic church was deprived of property. Then Benito Mussolini succeeded in usurping power in Italy, making King Emmanuel his puppet. Mussolini had come into power with the support of the Fascist Party. In 1929, Mussolini recognized the Catholic church with the condition that this church recognized his Fascist Party thus endow upon it recognition among other nations of the world. This treaty is called Lateran Treaty, one of its provisions is giving the Catholic church one square mile of territory in Rome. That area is called Vatican, that graduated into the present Vatican City State. The Vatican City is a monarchy governed by a president who is responsible to the Pope. In short, the Pope governs the Vatican City where church and state are one.

In 1933, Hitler recognized the Vatican City in return for the Pope's recognition of the Nazi Party of Hitler in Germany. The Pope did not protest over the murder of millions of Jews by the Nazis in gas chambers.

WWII was fought by the Axis Powers on one side (Hitler's Germany, Italy, Japan) and the Allied Powers on the other (USA, Britain, USSR, France, Canada, Australia, Philippines and many more). Spain, Switzerland and India stayed neutral.

When peace was established after WWII, the Big Three (Franklin D. Roosevelt, president of USA; Winston Churchill, prime minister of Britain; Joseph Stalin, premier of USSR) did not touch the donation of Mussolini to the Catholic church. The Vatican City has been recognized by other nations as a nation by itself. That is why a contemporary pope is received as head of state by a country he visits. Pres. Aquino III received Pope Francis as head of the Vatican City State.

The Roman Catholic church meddles in political affairs of the Philippines through the local cardinals, archbishops, parish priests and Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines. Of course, through the ruling class which is composed mostly by Catholics. This church has a control over elected officials by means of the Catholic vote, the Filipinos being 80- to 85% Catholic. Candidates cater to the wishes of the Catholic church during the election campaign and when they are already in government positions. That is why the Catholic church rules the Philippines to a large extent.

When farmers were lobbying the present Congress of the Philippines for the extension of land reform law, the Catholic church remained silent. Land tenure is an issue in social justice that this church should help resolve. It does not do so because it has large landholdings in the Philippines that constitute the Vatican City empire.

Leyte province, where Tacloban City and Palo town are located, is owned by a few landlords. The poor are deprived of land area to build their houses and land to cultivate to make a decent living. In the census of 2007, 75 people in a group of 100 are dependents of 25 who are gainfully employed, some of them overseas Filipino workers.

The poor in Leyte cannot live on charity forever. They should be enabled to make for a decent living. Land reform provides them pieces of land to cultivate to provide for their basic needs, housing and some extra income for education, information and recreation.

False hopes

Hopes of Leyteños and other victims of super typhoon Yolanda might have been heightened by the visit of Pope Francis. (The Pope visited Tacloban and celebrated mass in Palo on January 17,2015). However, they will end up with false hopes because land reform will not come their way. Fishing and working as labourers in the sugar lands and coconuts lands of hacienderos, as we have seen, can hardly sustain them.

This is now the third visit to the Philippines by a pope but there has been no progress insofar as land reform is concerned. As long as the present ruling class remains in power, with the support of the Catholic church, poverty among most Filipinos will remain.

Pope Francis signed the Malacañang guest book and wrote: “On the President and people of this beloved land of the Philippines I ask almighty God abundant blessings of wisdom, discernment, prosperity and peace. 16-1-2015 Francis” (Aurea Calica. Noy’s gifts to pope: Special coins, sculpture of Virgin Mary. Philippine Star – Sat, Jan 17, 2015).

With the present status of the Philippines “prosperity and peace” will not materialize.

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2 comments

lions44 profile image

lions44 18 months ago from Auburn, WA

Interesting article. I learned a lot. Being a Catholic, I always saw Fillipinos having a strong prescence at whatever Church I attended. We always referred to them as a "pillar" of the Church. Although I think you have a supporter in Pope Francis. He is bucking the trend and is far more liberal than Pope Benedict.

What surprised me most was how little cultural influence the U.S. had on the Islands. Granted it was only 50 years (and mostly a business/military relationship), but American culture usually overtakes everything. It is shocking how much the old Spanish system still has a grip on the people. Voted up.


conradofontanilla profile image

conradofontanilla 18 months ago from Philippines Author

lions44,

The most "visible" influence of the American culture is American English. But it took long for American English to supersede Spanish among the higher echelon of society. In fact Spanish was still part of school curriculum up until 1972. I took as part of basic curriculum 12 units (3 subjects) of Spanish.

Another big influence was Protestantism but dented Catholicism too small that some 85% of Filipinos as Catholics. The 15% is shared by the Philippine Independent Church (version of of Church of England), Muslim, Hinduism and Confucianism.

Another influence is the giving of tips. I still resist giving a tip. This harbors some graft and corruption because the tip is a mode of economic power, among the rich and in business.

The Homestead system spurred some social dispersion in that families raised families far apart from centers of population.

The use of power is a strong American influence. Filipinos have a psyche along justice or social justice not on power leverage that pervade Americans.

For example, to insure that Mayweather win in his past boxing bout with Pacquiao, a Filipino, Mayweather used leverage to choose the judges and referee.

My list is not exhaustive. The subject of American cultural influence on Filipinos deserve a book.

The fact that American culture has not overhelmed Filipino culture could be the awareness that Americans annexed the Philippines forcibly when we had just liberated ourselves from Spain by means of revolution.

The Spanish influence comes through land tenure and religion.

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