SPANISH COLONIAL SOVEREIGNTY OVER THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS: LEGAL ORIGINS AND JUSTIFICATIONS

Owen J. Lynch

Abstract


The legal origins of the embryonic Philippine Republic can be traced back over 500 years to a series of papal issuances known as the “Declaration of Alexander,” which provided the Spanish Crown with legal authority to acquire territory overseas.  By the time Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived in 1565, Spain had already garnered much experience in the management and exploitation of its colonial possessions.  King Philip II wanted to prevent a repeat of the brutal conquests in the Americas that belied Spanish attempts to legitimate its colonial enterprise in the name of Christianity.  The Manila Synod of 1582 formulated a novel theory upon which Spain staked its legal claim to sovereignty over the Philippine Islands.  Through baptism, natives were deemed to have become subjects of the Pope’s spiritual sovereignty while remaining subjects of their own local leaders.  The Pope delegated his sovereign powers to the Crown, and the Crown and its subordinates felt legally empowered to promulgate laws deemed necessary, an arrangement some native leaders purportedly agreed to.  But many indios resisted. As such Spain never technically acquired full sovereignty over the entire archipelago.

Keywords


Philippines, sovereignty, history, law, papal bulls, Tordesillas treaty, Manila synod

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