Life, death, decisions, during the Japanese Occupation

Filipino officials and Japanese General Homma Masaharu at the former residence of the U.S. High Commissioner, January, 1942

In October, 2013, the country will mark the 70th anniversary of the so-called Second Republic established under Japanese auspices.

In anticipation of that event, the project aims to complete the publication of the Iwahig Prison Diary of Antonio de las Alas, a prominent prewar political and business figure, and member of the Laurel government. His diary, written while he was detained by Allied forces awaiting trial for collaboration, gives a thorough account of the dilemmas and choices made by officials who served during the Japanese Occupation, including their motivations and justifications for remaining in the government.

The diary of de las Alas goes backward and forward in time: starting on April 29, 1945 he details the tedium and petty bickering of prison life, he also gives an insight into politics and society during the Liberation Era, while extensively recounting his experiences during the Japanese Occupation.

Salvador H. Laurel, son of occupation president Jose P. Laurel, was tasked by his father to keep a diary of their going into exile at the hands of the Japanese (see entries from March 21, 1945 to August 17, 1945).

His account bears comparison with the conversations recorded by Francis Burton Harrison, prewar adviser to President Quezon, who again served as an adviser during World War II, when the Philippine government went into exile in Washington D.C. His entries covering the government-in-exile begin on May 30, 1942, and come to an end on May 31, 1944.

In the Philippine Diary project, other diarists put forward different facets of life in the Philippines during the Japanese Occupation.

Charles Gordon Mock, an American originally imprisoned together with other Allied civilians in the University of Santo Tomas, details his experiences as a prisoner-of-war transferred to Los Baños on May 14, 1943.

The experiences of soldiers and guerrillas are captured in the diary entries of Ramon Alcaraz –his entries chronicle the transformation of a prisoner-of-war into a soldier serving in the Japanese-sponsored Philippine Constabulary: and how he used his Constabulary postings for guerrilla activities (the progression of this development can be gleaned from a sampling of entries: June 30, 1942; August 3, 1942; August 30, 1942; February 20, 1943).

The diary of Felipe Buencamino III ends with his first few weeks as a prisoner-of-war in the concentration camps established by the Japanese; but he resumes his diary on September 21 1944, at the tail end of the Japanese Occupation (see October 2, 1944 for an example of the growing anticipation of the end of the Occupation): in fact, his diary ends just at the moment of Liberation.

His father, Victor Buencamino, chronicles the frustrations, fears, and tedium of being a mid-level official still serving in the government, not so highly-placed as to be ignorant of public opinion, but also, trapped between public opinion and his own problems as someone in government. His diary serves as a counterpoint to the diaries of soldiers and officers in the field, and to the other diaries describing life during the Occupation.

Two other diaries remain to be uploaded extensively, namely the Sugamo Prison diary of Jorge B. Vargas, onetime Chairman of the Philippine Executive Commission, and Laurel’s wartime ambassador to Japan, and the diary of Fr. Juan Labrador, O.P, a Spanish Dominican who kept a diary during the Japanese Occupation. But perhaps these will have to wait for future anniversaries.

You can browse the entries of the diarists mentioned above by clicking these links to view their entries in reverse chronological order:

Antonio de las Alas

Ramon A. Alcaraz

Felipe Buencamino III

Victor Buencamino

Francis Burton Harrison

Juan Labrador O.P.

Salvador H. Laurel

Charles Mock


July 15, 1972 Saturday

11:15 PM

PAGE 2193

July 15, 1972

Saturday

Malacañan Palace

Manila

Met the Mayors of Ilocos Norte with the governor, congressman, treasurer and auditor.

Distributed about P8 million of their share of the excess of income tax which I have asked the BIR to allocate.

Will do the same for the other provinces.

Before that met with the Sec. of National Defense, Chief of Staff and major service commanders on the establishment of naval stations at Bicobian Bay, Casiguran and San Vicente, airfields close to them, finish the road from Ilagan to Palanan as well as the (not readable) logging rand from Maddela to south of Casiguran with the help of the loggers (had Sec. Taico in the conference as well as as Al Lim and Valeriano Briano whose logging concession includes Palanan and south Dagallorin River.

We have decided to organize a brigade from the 1st Regular Due (Tabak) to sweep the eastern part of Isabela to capture the estimated 400 NPA’s who are up to now concealed interest.

The boys that assaulted the 1st camp had to rest and the weather was foul.

Malacañan Palace

Manila

PAGE 2194

July 15th (Con’t)

Manila Times and Daily Mirror, Chronicle and ABS-CBN are belittling the Armed Forces as usual as well as the achievement of the discovery of the smuggling of firearms.

I announced today that the conspiracy for subversions, insurgency and rebellion is more alarming than we originally imagined. And we are reassessing the contingency plans of the military.

This will probably be given a big play tomorrow.

Although I did say that there is no reason for hysteria or panic become the Armed Forces can handle the situation.

In accordance with the decision this noon Task Force Palanan has been organized.

I attach copy of instructions.

PAGE 2197

July 15th (Con’t)

Malacañan Palace

Manila

The media, specially the newspapers, have forfeited their right to freedom of the press. They have abused it to the point where they actually seek to falsify news.

The prime example is the “karagatan” case and the fighting in Palawan.

There must be some way to prevent those irresponsible advocates of not press freedom but press tyranny from weakening the state and the democracy that gives them the liberty that their friends, the communists, seek to destroy.

Chino Roces, Juan Mercado, Doronilla Granada, the ABS-CBN TV-Radio group, Renato Constantino, even the Bulletin and the Herald are guilty of this abuse.

Our informants tell us that they have met and agreed to belittle the communist gun – running and the NPA training camp in Diguyo.

I have a clear conscience in fighting them.


September 15, 1945, Saturday

All of us had been anxiously awaiting our turn to be released. About ten o’clock this morning, Recto announced that he was leaving that morning. I went to the Administration Office to ascertain whether I was being released also. Mr. Bunye, the Superintendent, read and reread the list of detainees turned over by the C.I.C. to the Philippine Commonwealth government, but I was not included. It was a surprise to me as I was expected to be released with Recto. I sat down in Mr. Bunye’s office and waited. Every time a list came, I inquired whether my name was on it and I always received a negative answer. At about 11:30 I became impatient and went up to the office of Director Misa. As usual, Mr. Misa was very kind and helpful. I asked him whether I had been turned over to the Commonwealth. He pulled from a drawer a long list. After reading it carefully, he told me I was not included. I asked him to read it again. He reviewed the list and he gave me the assurance that my name was not in the list. Secretary Abello came and I asked him to read the list. He also certified that I was not included. The reason why I did not read the list myself was I forgot to bring my new pair of reading glasses; I could hardly read with my old pair which I brought with me. I finally pulled it out of my pocket, put it on and began to read. I saw my name immediately. I was under the letter “D” for “De las Alas”, not under “A” for “Alas”. This is probably the reason why Messrs. Misa and Abello failed to see my name.

I became very excited. I could not keep still and did not know what to do. Director Misa was a mind reader and a real friend. He is always anxious to serve. He said that if the usual legal procedures were to be followed, I would not be able to leave that day, for he had to notify Mr. Tañada who had to approve my bail. I would be released upon the receipt of the release papers from Tañada. However, he adopted another procedure, rather unusual and illegal. He signed an order for my release and placed me under the custody of a Bilibid guard who accompanied me to Manila. The guard was not supposed to give me the release order and actually release me until Fiscal Tañada approved my bail. I had no transportation but Mr. Abello kindly offered his automobile. The guard and my cousin, Atty. Luis Atienza, accompanied me. They took me directly to the house where my family was staying — 176 Rodriguez Arias, in the San Miguel district, the old house of the Padilla family. My family was surprised. They were not expecting me. We cried as an expression of joy. Mrs. Padilla, Paddy’s mother, also showed great happiness. After many months I am reunited with my dear family.

The guard and Atienza went to the office of Mr. Tañada and got the approval of my bail. Later, they brought my release order to me. Thus ended my long imprisonment.

Now I will stop writing this sort of a diary. From now on I shall devote my time in preparing my case and in seeking my full vindication.


September 14, 1945, Friday

Visit of family. I saw Victor, my new grandson, son of Paddy and Lily, for the first time.

Since my arrival, I had been conferring with the detainees of Muntinglupa and getting impressions. All seem to be very disappointed. They do not understand how we could be traitors. Even old Don Miguel Unson was bitter. All agreed that we should get together to protect our rights and to vindicate ourselves.

We who came from Iwahig continued to meet and comment on the different events and news. We were somewhat depressed. We were beginning to have the impression that some of those assuring us of their support are not really working for us. We even suspect that for political or personal reasons they preferred and wished that we remain in jail for a longer time or that our cases be prolonged.

There were two events that disheartened us very much. One is the case of Representative Veloso. He was about to be released and he announced to us his intention to take his seat in the House immediately. We tried to persuade him not to do so. But he insisted. He said that he had already talked to the majority of the Representatives. Apparently, his friends had forsaken him. The house refused to seat him. They set the precedent that he must first be cleared by the C.I.C. What a shameful ruling! Each House is the sole judge of the right to seat of its member. Why should they make it depend upon the discretion of another entity, especially one which is non-Filipino? The House should not allow anybody to interfere in the exercise of its constitutional right. Veloso announced that he would publish the names of collaborators now sitting in Congress and that he would go to the United States to to fight his case. He will make things worse.

The other is the cablegram to Pres. Osmeña of Secretary Ickes of the U.S. Department of the Interior, in effect it warns that the rehabilitation aid would depend upon whether the “collaborators” would be vigorously prosecuted and convicted. Osmeña answered that his administration is taking proper action. He said that proper machinery to handle the matter is being organized. He added that he even disregarded the legal provision that nobody can be detained for over 6 hours. There is quite a speculation as to why Ickes sent such a cablegram. The concensus of opinion is that it was the result of the campaign of Confesor, Cabili, Kalaw and Romulo. Ickes cannot possibly take personal active interest in an affair which is small in so far as the American people are concerned. Ickes’ cablegram was followed by several editorials and publications in the United States against “collaborationists.” The suspicion about the activities of Confesor and others in this connection comes from the statement of Col. Peralta, the guerrilla hero who has just returned from the United States, to the effect that Confesor and others go from one newspaper office to another to give news against the “collaborationists”. These people are certainly doing a lot of harm to the Philippines. The truth is that there is practically no pro-Japanese element in the Philippines. The Japanese themselves found this out, although too late. And yet Confesor and others would make the American people believe that there are many Filipino pro-Japanese and among them are counted many of the outstanding Filipinos who in the past or during the American regime occupied the most responsible positions in the government. I believe Confesor and others at heart do not believe that we are traitors to our country and pro-Japanese or disloyal to America. Their only aim is to prejudice Roxas who is disputing the presidency with Osmeña. So that we are being made the football of politics. We are being the victim of political intrigue and machinations. This gives one an insight of the evil of politics. Because of it, the most rudimentary principles of justice and fairness are trampled upon.

The cablegram of Ickes was received with disappointment and disgust by free loving Filipinos. The “collaborationists” issue is a matter that should be left to the Philippine Government to handle without interference on the part of the United States government officials. This gives us an indication of what we may expect if we are not given complete and immediate independence. Furthermore, why should the rehabilitation aid to which our country became entitled because of loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and more than a billion worth of damages as our contribution to this war, be made to depend upon a handful of supposed “traitors”? Why should our country be punished for the guilt of a few, who some Americans consider as “renegades”?

The answer of Osmeña was equally disappointing. It was weak and subservient. He should have resented the uncalled for and untimely interference. He should defend the rights and prerogatives of his government as we did when we fought General Wood for undue interference in our powers. He should resent the insult to him when Ickes seemed to presume that his government would not do what is right. Some remarked that this is just as “puppet” a government as the Republic during the Japanese occupation. It was an opportunity for Osmeña to make a stand to show that he means to govern this country.

There is another event worth mentioning. Habeas corpus proceedings were started in the Supreme Court for the release of one of the detainees. The Court decided against the petition on the ground that the war is not yet over. There was a brilliant dissenting opinion by Justice Ozaeta. It was a great document. He was for the maintenance and preservation of man’s constitutional libertarian rights.

* * * * *

            Our release began the very day we arrived in Muntinglupa. Saturday, September 8th, Minister Alunan and Gen. Francisco were released after giving the required bail. The next day, Yulo followed. Two days afterwards, Sison and Sebastian were released. There were rumors that Recto and I were to be released next. We had been informed that our papers were ready in Solicitor General Tañada’s office. Everytime one leaves, those left behind felt very sad.

We, members of Congress, had various meetings, once with Roxas. There was a proposition to write a letter to the Senate stating that we would not assume our positions in the Senate until after proper investigation and requesting such an investigation. It was written upon the suggestion of Roxas. But we decided not to take our seats until after our complete exoneration. I think this is a wise decision. We cannot do anything anyhow as we will be tied up on account of our cases. Besides, it will be embarrassing for us when questions involving our case or our relationship with the United States or Japan come up.


September 9, 1945, Sunday

My family visited me. I was very happy as I had not seen them since I left them in Tubao on April 19, 1945. It was the birthday of my wife and I celebrated it by going to confession.

That same day we got a good glimpse of the political situation. Among our first visitors were President of the Senate Manuel Roxas and Senator Melecio Arranz. Roxas and his men were very actively campaigning — Roxas was very open in his campaigning. He gave us the impression that Osmeña, his opponent, is against the “collaborationists”. Roxas visited us twice in my one week’s stay. Among other things, he told us how he had been snubbed by Osmeña. He said he went to see Osmeña when the latter came from the United States. Osmeña did not pay attention to him. MacArthur noticed it and as Roxas started to leave, he called Roxas to try to diplomatically get them together. Evidently, MacArthur called the attention of Osmeña, as the next day Osmeña sent for Roxas and treated him in the most cordial manner.


September 8, 1945, Saturday

We took our breakfast at 5:00 o’clock. At 6:00 o’clock we were on our way to the airport. I could not explain why when we parted from each other most of us were silent and in tears. It was probably because we were not so optimistic as to what will be done to us in Manila. Or perhaps it was the result of about five months of paternal association among us. We arrived at the airport at about 8:00 o’clock due to the bad roads and stops caused by defects in the truck engine. The airport is near the town of Puerto Princesa itself. As we left the barracks and the colony itself, we felt something for these places that was hard to explain as they were the scene of our martyrdom for our beloved country.

At the airport we got a good glimpse of the might of the United States. There were countless B24’s which we saw in action in Manila and in Baguio, and B29’s which devastated and crippled Japan. We became more convinced that Japan had absolutely no chance.

We left the airport at about 8:30 a.m. in 24-seat transport of a line called “Atabrine”. It reminded us of the daily doze of Atabrine pills we took in Iwahig to protect ourselves against malaria. After going over countless small islands we arrived in Manila at about 10:45. There was nobody to receive us. Our guards had to telephone for trucks. One truck arrived at about 12:30 p.m.; we had been waiting impatiently on account of the extreme heat. The truck was small and one-half of it had to be filled up with our baggage. We had to be crammed in the small remaining space. The trip was as bad as when we were herded in a hold in a boat on our way to Iwahig. As we reached the main Manila South Road, and we turned left, it became clear to us that we were going to be incarcerated at the New Bilibid at Muntinglupa.

We arrived at this place at about 3 o’clock. There we were met by Minister Tirona, Mayor Guinto, Vice Minister Pedrosa and others. Later we met Don Miguel Unson.


September 7, 1945, Friday

Yesterday I began to pack. Everybody was surprised as they knew that I had also become a pessimist. I told them we were going before next Sunday. Zulueta inquired, “On what do you base your opinion we are leaving soon?” I reasoned out that I expect MacArthur would turn us over to the Commonwealth immediately after the signing of the surrender document which took place on the 2nd instant. After assuming jurisdiction, I was very sure the Commonwealth would take prompt action to release us outright or under bail. I was sure that our government would not presume 119 guilty or at least afford us ample opportunity to defend ourselves. The only way to do that is by releasing us under bail in the meanwhile. Nobody seemed to take my hunch seriously.

This morning we woke up full of pessimism and gloom. Even the heavens seemed to decree our fate as it was dark and raining. Not one expected this would be a memorable day. We engaged in our usual activities with despondent demeanor, especially Mr. Zulueta. At about 11:05 a.m. here comes Lieutenant Straddling with his usual solemn attitude. After passing the gate, his face suddenly brightened. He was all smiles. We knew at once he was bringing some news. We were all breathless. We have received so much disappointment that nobody dared to predict favorable news. But when he was near us, he broke the news. Thirty of us were to be taken to Manila the next day. There was no general rejoicing as everybody was afraid that he would not be included among the 30 and nobody knew what the fate of those left behind would be. All listened attentively to the calling of the names. Everyone called burst in joy. After the reading of the names everyone scampered for the list to be sure his name was called or his name was not called. The Lieutenant stopped all chagrin when he announced that we would all be taken to Manila, by groups of about 30 persons in three planes.

We hardly slept that night. We were so excited, kept conversing. We built castles in the air. We remembered our dear ones. We would again enjoy liberty and taste the happiness of being with our family. We began to dream of plans for the future. We remembered and repeated the jokes. Many times we yelled, “Ilaw!”, the joke we played whenever we wanted the light to be put out or whenever we wished noisy or talkative fellows to shut up. We began yelling: “Gil! Cafe, chocolate!” Gil is the tall Spaniard we used to mistake for a “Bombay” because he wears a turban once in a while, who prepares coffee or chocolate for us every afternoon or early in the morning. But at about two o’clock, probably because of the intense excitement, we all fell asleep. At about 3:00 o’clock, we were awakened by noises from heavy steps and the “cocinillas” (small stoves) and pans. It was Gil preparing the coffee. Not knowing it was Gil, everyone began to yell, “Ilaw!” Gil answered that he was preparing coffee. How could it be — it was only 3:00 o’clock! We were not expected to take our breakfast until 5:00 o’clock. But Gil insisted that it was already after 4:00 o’clock. We all consulted our timepieces. It was clear his watch had stopped. We could no longer sleep. We stayed awake in our cots until about 4:00 o’clock when we got up and prepared for the day.