Diary of Juan Labrador, O.P.

February 17, 1942

To add to the humiliation of the defeated British, the Japanese yesterday published side by side with the news of the fall of Singapore, the death sentence meted out to three Englishmen who attempted to escape from the concentration camp at Santo Tomas. The sentence was read before all the internees, and carried out four days ago. Here are some of the details of the historic incident.

The good treatment of the internees which I witnessed a few days ago did not prevent the brutal cruelties which the Japanese showed from time to time. Good treatment consisted of permission granted so that the prisoners may pass a day or two outside the camps in consideration of some gifts or money. These three Englishmen went out but did not return. Instead, they went to the province with the intention of either going to the mountains or joining the troops in Bataan. But they were captured. They were kept in one of the classrooms of the University where they were stripped of their clothing and manhandled until they lost consciousness, and one of them died. I was assured that it was not the intention of the Commandant to give them such a stiff penalty, but the soldiers overstepped their limits, and on seeing their victims so helpless, decided to kill them.

An American also escaped. He was a veteran miner, and as he knew the mountains very well, the Japanese failed to capture him.

Due to these incidents the watchdogs have put on a more ferocious stance. They have become more vigilant and decided to lock up the prisoners more tightly. For this purpose, they ejected the nuns of Sta. Catalina from the Education building which they have been occupying since the burning of their college. Then they put up a sawali fence between the Main Building and the Seminary. The Fathers will be using the side gate of P. Noval street without restriction from or vigilance on the part of the Japanese sentries. We had requested for this ever since they brought in the internees as we were being molested by the sentinels whenever we wanted to use the only available gate. The Dominican community is benefitted by this but the nuns are not. They had lost so much time looking for a place to house more than forty of their members, just to find out that they could not afford the rental. But Providence is great-hearted.

The worst part of it is that the Catholic prisoners, who number more than a thousand, are left without any spiritual assistance. The priests can attend to them only in the chapel where they have free access. With the tight security over the prisoners even the Fathers cannot push through with the catechetical classes and cultural conferences which they had organized. They were promised that a Japanese priest would be provided on Sunday. “But how can we confess to a Japanese priest?” The prisoners asked.