The Philippines has been governed by the Spaniards based on its discovery giving Spain a title to the Philippines. The discovery was made by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Magellan landed on the island of Cebu, claiming the lands for Spain and naming them Islas de San Lazaro. Ferdinand Magellan converted some of the Filipinos to Roman Catholics. Magellan was killed by a local chief named Lapu-Lapu, who fought against foreign domination. Over the next several years, other Spanish expeditions were sent off to the islands. From 1565 to 1821, the Philippines was indirectly governed by the King of Spain through Mexico because of the distance of the Philippines from Spain then in 1898 the Philippines was directly ruled from Spain because Mexico obtained their independence. The Council of the Indies in Spain is the one responsible for the administration of the Philippines. The council was the most important administrative organ of the Spanish Empire for the American and Asian colonies. It was placed at start as a section under the jurisdiction of the Council of Castile and it had legislative, executive and judicial functions. In 1837, the Council of Indies was abolished and legislation for the Philippines was temporarily performed by the Council of Ministers. From 1863, the Ministry of Ultramar exercised general powers of supervision over Philippine affairs. Three times during the Spanish era, the Philippines was given representation in the Spanish Cortes, the legislative body of Spain. A basic principle introduced by Spain to the Philippines was the union of the Church and state.
The Spain established in the Philippines a Unitary form of government which was centralized in structure and national in scope. A unitary system of government is one in which all power is derived from a central and single source, such that all levels of administration defer to the central power. This is in contrast to a federation system of government, which divides governance among several self-governing regions, such as states or provinces which may have certain powers and abilities not controlled by the central government. The barangays were consolidated into towns each headed by a Gobernadorcillio and the towns into provinces each headed by a governor who represented the Governor General in the province. Cities governed under special charters were also created. Each of these cities had a city council. The powers of the government were exercised by the Governor-General in Manila. The Governor-General had executive, administrative, legislative and judicial powers. The Governor-General also acts as Commander-in-Chief of all the Armed Forces in the Philippines.
In 1583, the Royal Audiencia was established which served as the Supreme Court of the Philippines. It was a Spanish colonial institution created to assist the governor-general and to secure the people from abusive Spanish officials during the Spanish colonization period. Its decision was final except on certain cases of great importance which could be appealed to the King of Spain. The Royal Audiencia also performed functions of executive and legislative nature. There were also special courts such as the military and naval courts which had jurisdiction over military offenses and the ecclesiastical courts which had knowledge of canonical matters and religious offenses. Spain ruled the Philippines for more than 300 years from 1571 to 1898. The government which the Spaniards established in the Philippines was defective. It was a government for them and not for the Filipinos. The Spanish officials were inefficient and corrupt. The union of church and state produced serious problems between the religious and civil authorities. Equality before the law was denied to the Filipinos. Revolutionary Era
On August 26, 1896, Andres Bonifacio organized the Katipunan which was the secret society which initiated the Philippine Revolution. Together with a group of Filipino patriots, they signed the covenant of the Katipunan with their own blood on July 7, 1892. The central government of the Katipunan was vested in a Supreme Council. In each province there was a Provincial Council and in each town, a Popular Council. The judicial power was exercised by a Judicial Council.
The Katipunan was the first clear break from Spanish rule with the ultimate goal to establish a free and sovereign Philippines. The revolutionary government established at the Tojeros Convention was the first government to unify all rebel forces. It was the first Filipino government whose officials were freely elected by representatives of the people.
On November 1, 1897, a republic was established by Gen. Aguinaldo in Biak-na-Bato. It had a constitution which was to take effect for two years only. It declared that the aim of the revolution was the separation of the Philippines from the Spanish monarchy and their formation into an independent state. The Biak-na-Bato Republic lasted up to December 15, 1897.
On May 23, 1898, Gen. Aguinaldo established a Dictatorial Government because of the chaotic conditions in the Philippines after the Spanish-American war. The most important achievements of the Dictatorial Government were the proclamation of Philippine Independence at Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898 and the reorganization of local governments.
On June 29, 1898, Gen. Aguinaldo established the Revolutionary Government replacing the Dictatorial Government with himself as President and a Congress whose function was advisory and ministerial.
On September 15, 1898, a revolutionary Congress of Filipino representative met in Malolos, Bulacan at the call of the Revolutionary Government. The Malolos Congress ratified on September 29, 1898 the proclamation of Philippine Inependence made on June 12, 1898 and framed the so-called Malolos Constitution. The Malolos Constitution was the first democratic constitution ever promulgated in the whole of Asia.
On August 14, 1898, the American military began to rule the Philippines the day after the capture of Manila. The existence of war gave the President of the United States the power to establish a Military Government in the Philippines, as Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the United States. His authority was delegated to the military governor who exercised as long as the war lasted, all powers of the government.
After the Military regime ended in the Philippines, the Civil Government was inaugurated in Manila on July 4, 1901, headed by a Civil Governor whose position was created on October 29, 1901. The Civil Governor also exercised legislative powers.
The Philippine Bill of 1902 was the basic law for the Philippine government from 1902 to 1916. It provided the creation of the Philippine Assembly to be composed of Filipinos elected by the people. From 1907 to 1916, the Philippine Commission acted as the upper house of legislative branch with the Philippine Assembly serving as the lower house. The Jones law of 1916 became the new organic or basic law for the Philippines. This law vested the legislative power in an all-Filipino law making body composed of the Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives.
After the Civil Government, the Commonwealth Government was established pursuant to an act of the United States Congress on March 24, 1934, commonly known as the Tydings-McDuffie Law. The commonwealth status was a form of government in transition toward independence. The law provided for a transition period of ten years during which the Philippine Commonwealth would operate and at the expiration of said period on July 4, 1946, the independence of the Philippines would be proclaimed and established.
The new government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines was inaugurated on November 15, 1935. The Commonwealth Government of the Philippines was republican in form under the presidential type. The legislative power was first vested in a unicameral Nation Assembly and later in a bicameral Congress composed of the Senate and House of Representatives. The judicial power was vested in the Supreme Court and inferior courts provided by law. The Filipinos had almost complete control over the domestic affairs, the United Stated retaining control only over matters involving foreign affairs.
January 3, 1942, a day after the Japanese occupied the Philippines; the Japanese established a Military Administration under a proclamation issued by the Japanese High Command, the sovereignty of the United States over the Philippines was declared terminated.
A civil government known as the Philippine Executive Commission composed of Filipinos was organized by the military forces of occupation. The commission exercised both executive and legislative powers. The laws enacted were subject to the approval of the Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Forces. The judiciary stayed the same in the form as it was in the Commonwealth. However, it functioned without the independence which it had traditionally enjoyed.
On October 14, 1943, the Japanese-sponsored Republic of the Philippines was inaugurated. It was of the same character as the Philippine Executive Commission. Like the later, the ultimate source of its authority was the Japanese military authority and government. On August 17, 1945, President Laurel proclaimed the dissolution of the Republic.