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Bandits, Banditry and Landscapes of Crime in the Nineteenth-Century Philippines

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 August 2009

Greg Bankoff
Affiliation:
University of Auckland

Extract

With few exceptions, commentators agree that bandits were a major socio-economic phenomenon of the nineteenth-century Philippines. Historians and contemporary observers are united in lamenting the deplorable state to which the countryside was reduced by their depredations. Bandits infested the roads and rivers, ravaged fields and farms, sacked towns, pillaged churches and set light to houses in an orgy of murder, robbery and rapine in which there was “hardly an evil deed that their rash boldness [did] not perform”. Modern historiography has usually been content to interpret such crimes as either being indicative of social tensions within a society or as representing “a basic social activity with its own internal logic and historical development”. Only superficial attention has been paid to the environment within which these crimes were committed, historians merely noting that such and such an offence was committed in an urban or rural setting.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The National University of Singapore 1998

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References

1 Some contemporary accounts deny that banditry was widespread in rural areas and complain instead of the bad press given to isolated instances of robbery committed by groups of rateros or petty thieves. See, for example, a letter from Bulacan dated 7 Apr. 1888 published in a Manila newspaper that reassures readers that the province is in a state of the “completest tranquillity”. El Comercio, 8 04 1881Google Scholar.

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50 Provincial governors and other responsible persons were asked to provide information on five points: how long such lawlessness had been endemic within their jurisdictions; what effects it was having; why local authorities failed in executing their duties; what obstacles prevented the apprehension of such robbers; and the reasons why local people frequently perjured themselves. “Malhechores…1776”. PNA, Bandos y Circulares.

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91 Exceptions were coffee and abaca grown in upland areas and sugar, but rice remained the province's main economic staple. A canker affecting coffee further reduced the importance of this crop and contributed towards a marked lowering of per capita income during the business recession of the 1880s and 1890s. Borromeo, Soledad, “El Cadiz Filipino: Colonial Cavite, 1571–1896” (Ph.D diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1974), pp. 97100Google Scholar.

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102 “Transmitiendo…sobre la Aprehensión y Muerte del Malhechor Santiago Moyica Espineli”, PNA, Erectión de Pueblos.

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106 The increasing number, size and complexity of sailing ships caused a significant rise in the demand for marine cordage during the century. Manila hemp was superior to its major Russian competitor because it did not need to be coated with tar to protect it from the effects of salt water, a process that made the rope heavier, dirtier, less flexible and more costly.

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109 The equivalent terms used in Cavite were malhechores, facineros and salteadores or, roughly, wrongdoers, rascals and footpads.

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117 y Larre, Joaquin Rajal, Memoria acerca de la Provincia de Nueva Ecija en Filipinos (Madrid: Establecimiento Tipográfico de Fortanet, 1890)Google Scholar. The manuscript held in the archive is so similar to Rajal y Larre's published account of Nueva Ecija that the one may be simply an earlier version of the other.