They're not like the contentious SALN of Chief Justice Renato Corona, or the same Civil Service form that people in government service, appointed or elected, must file every fiscal year to comply with law.
The election returns and church records of our Spanish past provide us means to identify the members of a town's principalia or the principales who were elected to various positions in the local government--the gobernadorcillo, and the teniente primero, various ministers (called juezes) who attended to issues pertaining to peace (juez de policia), cultivated lands (juez de sementeras) and livestock/cattle (juez de ganados).
There were the so-called subalternos del pueblo (subalterns/subordinates of the town) comprising lieutenants (tenientes from segundo or second up to nth, depending on population size) and the alguaciles or sheriffs. The lieutenants were still of the principalia, but the sheriffs were ordinary menfolk who did not sport the title Don.
The indio bravo or sumiso, brave or submissive, of the principalia could only aspire to become gobernadorcillo (Capitan Municipal later), today's town mayor. He could not be Alcalde Mayor (Gobernador Civil later) of his province because that post was reserved for Spaniards.
To be a principal, one had to have visible wealth (farmlands and tenants, carabaos and horses, a decent house maybe of cana or madera, bamboo or wood, etc.). Most important, he must be literate; who can leer y escribir - read and write - preferentially en Castellano.
The gobernadorcillo was elected by an electoral college composed of peers drawn by lots if there was large group of principales—six from incumbent cabezas de barangay (heads of barangays) and six from former capitanes or cabezas who had served for at least ten years. The 13th elector was the incumbent town head. This electoral set-up was in accordance with the laws of good government as amended by the superior decree of 05 October 1847.
The town head and the other Dons in the municipal tribunal did not file SALNs. But the wealth of the gobernadorcillo candidates became transparent when the Alcalde Mayor, who presided over the elections together with the cura parroco/parish priest, submitted the election returns to the Governor-General in Manila for approval of the results or his recommendation as to who should be gobernadorcillo.
Thus, it was the Alcalde Mayor who revealed the wealth and other attributes of the contenders for the town’s top position, as illustrated by these election results in our hometown in Zambales in the 1800s --
In the 07 November 1848 elections for the 1849 term, D. Fruto Apolinario, who was the first town head as teniente absolute in 1846, received eleven votes, the highest, but the Alcalde Mayor D. Jose Sanchez Guerrero recommended the second placer, D. Pascual Espiritu (six votes) to be the next teniente absoluto. He preferred Espiritu more than the incumbent, D. Martin Antonio. Teniente absoluto was gobernadorcillo title when the town was still under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the capital town Iba.
Guerrero had all the praises for Apolinario—a man of good character, knowledgeable in Spanish, owns arable lands and a house of bamboo and nipa, has 17 carabaos and 6 horses, and has served as teniente absoluto and cabeza de barangay “without blemish”. Yet, he went for Espiritu, who was as well-off like Apolinario (though they didn't have the same number of livestock), has served as teniente primero and cabeza also “without blemish” but who has better disposition than Apolinario.
The first election of the town’s gobernadorcillo was held on 07 December 1849. Nominated were D. Fruto Apolinario, D.Gelacio de los Santos and the incumbent teniente absoluto D. Pascual Espiritu. The popular D. Fruto again garnered the majority vote (10), while D. Gelacio received 8 votes.
This time, Alcalde Mayor D. Jose Sanchez Guerrero rightfully endorsed Apolinario as the best who can discharge the duties of the position. “Without blemish” was how he described Apolinario’s and De los Santos’s government service as teniente absoluto and cabeza de barangay, respectively. He reported that their houses were made of bamboo and cogon. Apolinario had 7 carabaos and 4 horses, while De los Santos owned 5 carabaos, 5 horses and 3 balitas of arable land.
The cura could also write his own SALNs regarding the fitness of the candidates for public office.
In the 06 April 1893 elections, for example, Fr. Maximino Martinez wrote the Alcalde Mayor about the qualifications of the three aspirants.
He had the highest praises, and was obviously biased, for D. Juan Flordeliza: “[He] is from this town, speaks Spanish quite perfectly, has held positions in the council with probity and wisdom, occupies a high social position and exerts some considerable influence in the town thanks to his long service and personal conduct, is endowed with extraordinary activity, integrity of character and poise that distinguish all his actions, the most ideal for the difficult position of Gobernadorcillo.”
He had reservations with D.Florencio Adamos: “[He] is a native of Vigan from where he moved to this town some years ago, has modest knowledge of Spanish, has been cabeza de barangay, it is quite agreed that he has a spotless reputation, but he has been talked about being accused for reasons not very decent, he is religious and timid, very gentle and naive.”
He had no friendly words for D. Cipriano Farrales incumbent Gobernadorcillo: “[He] can express himself properly in Spanish, is of good character, has sufficient resources, but he is somewhat remiss and negligent in character, because of which, he does not have much influence in town.”
Obviously, the only hidden wealth that the Alcalde Mayor had no knowledge of were the peso or reales savings account of the candidates that were possibly deposited in undisclosed places in their houses, if they had extra money from their harvests or sale of livestock, or gains from businesses for those who ran casas de azucar, anilio, y algodon (sugar, indigo and cotton mills), and the jewelries of their spouses.
There were no impeachment cases for gobernadorcillos we noted in our town’s history. But incumbents who incurred the displeasure of the cura, for reasons personal or official, were marked for life.
- Ereccion de los Pueblos – Zambales 1842-1894.