Accused Filipino Collaborators

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The information that can be gleaned from the Supreme Court records of Philippines’ citizens tried for treason during the Japanese occupation demonstrate that combating guerrilla activities were one area of concern in which the Japanese actively worked with Philippines’ collaborators. Intelligence gathering, often through very coercive methods, was critical to this activity and one in which Philippines’ collaborators seem to have played a major role. Two examples from the court records illustrate this.

Antonio Racaza (G.R. No. L-365) was accused of acting as a spy and guide for forces composed of Japanese and Philippine supporters in and around the Province of Cebu. In May 1944 he, along with other Philippine collaborators, apprehended and questions a one Custodio Abella as they sought information about the location of guerrilla forces that continued to resist the Japanese, torturing Abella and finally handing him over to the Kempei. He was accused of several similar acts: in August 1944 he questioned and tortured a Florencio Perez to gain information about guerrilla forces’ locations. On December 2, 1944, he led the Japanese to the home of Pablo Seno and his daughter Anunsacion Seno, both of whom were tortured and turned over to the Kempei Tai. The court documents noted that the fate of these two is unknown. On the same day, they preceded to the home of Rufino Seno, who likewise was, after torture, handed to the Kempei Tai, and his fate is likewise unknown. This pattern was repeated with variations. On August 19, 1944, he also attempted to rape the sister of the man being interrogated. On August 24, 1944, after leading Kempei Tai officials, along with Philippine collaborators, to seize Patricio Suico, Leonardo Ouano and Eduardo Ouano, individuals thought to have guerrilla connections. They were brought to Leonardo’s house at Banilad where Patricio Suico was hanged and burned to death while the Ouanos were able to escape. In all, fourteen different cases of leading Japanese with Philippine collaborators to individuals thought to have connections with or knowledge of guerrilla activities occurred, with at least 17 of those interrogated being murdered, and the whereabouts of more being unknown after having been handed off to the Kempei Tai.

The case of Eleuterio Caña (G.R. No. L-1678) illustrates that many Japanese collaborates acted quite openly, but what counted as “aiding and comforting the enemy” as not always clear.  Eleuterio Caña was accused of giving ” aid and comfort to the enemy, willfully , feloniously and treasonably” as he served as “puppet Mayor” of the Abuyog, Leyte. Among his crimes were providing local labor to dig “trenches, foxholes and air raids shelters around the Japanese garrison” (corvée, it appears, but is not clear), ejecting locals from their homes in order to house Japanese soldiers, forcing locals to harvest palay and then provide it to the Japanese, and disparaging the American and Philippines’ forces. He was also involved in helping the Japanese locate and combat guerrilla activities, accompanying them on patrols and even participating in the razing of homes in “Himara, Mahapalag, Union, Ogis, Mahayahay, Polahongon all in the Layog District, and in the barrios of Bayabas, Dingle, Combos, Laray, Taleque, Habadyang, sitio Malasiga, sitio Maitum, parts of the Barrio Anglad, of the all of Hogasaan District.” He also directed the Japanese to people of interest such as Basilio Pacatan who was said to be the father-in-law of a guerrilla lieutenant named Nicolas Camintoy. Some of these accusations, such as forcing individuals to harvest palay and handing it over to the Japanese, seem to be false. It appears that the lands had been abandoned, and rather than let the palay rot, Caña organized its harvest. Half the harvest went to the harvesters, and a quarter was used “according to uncontradicted evidence” as food relief for the poor at a time where there were no rice imports. The finally quarter was paid “as protection money” to the Japanese garrison that provided security from guerrilla forces while the harvest was underway. Therefore, this charge was dropped, but it illustrates that often people were caught between two forces, both feared and perceived as hostile–the Japanese occupying forces, and the Philippine guerrilla resistance forces.


“G.R. No. L-365; THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. ANTONIO RACAZA, Defendant-Appellant.” 2015. Accessed September 24.

“G.R. No. L-1678; THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff -Appellee, vs. ELEUTERIO CAÑA, Defendant-Appellant.” 2015. Accessed September 25.

The Philippines & WWII

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The Japanese invasion of the Philippines was the third foreign nation to occupy the Philippines, encounter Philippine resistance, and impact the Philippine nationalist movement. Philippine resistance to the first colonizers, the Spanish, was immediate and ongoing, but it would be incorrect to think of this early local resistance to outsiders in terms of national aspirations. In the southern islands, many people shared the common faith of Islam, but it was in part the increasingly unifying force of Christianity that helped give a national character to Philippine thought on self determination. This nationalism was manifested in the Propaganda Movement and works of Jose Rizal by 1888 and in rebellion by 1896 (Nadeau 2008, 64). Just two years after the beginning of the rebellion, Spain came into conflict with the United States due to events in the Caribbean which would escalate into the Spanish-American War. With the surrender of the Spanish, the Americans considered that they had gained a colony, and in February 1899 fighting had broken out between the former allies, the Americans and the Philippine troops (Nadeau 2008, 68). With McKinley’s policy of “benevolent assimilation” America accepted her newly-won colony, and Philippine resistance was now directed at the new colonial power (Nadeau 2008, 69). On July 4, 1901, the United States installed its first civil government (Nadeau 2008, 75). While the Americans paid lip service to independence, they suppressed the nationalist movement (Nadeau 2008, 52-54). Over the following decades American rhetoric towards the Philippines’ independence was largely a reflection of the political winds blowing in Washington, D.C. rather than in Manila. But new winds were stirring in the Pacific, and on December 8, 1941, the Japanese launched air raids on “joint U.S.-Philippine installments” (Nadeau 2008, 58). American-Philippines forces fell back to the Bataan Peninsula in the face of superior Japanese might, and General Douglas MacArthur was ordered to retreat to Australia. On April 9, 1942, General Edward P. King surrendered in Bataan, and with the surrender of General Wainwright at Corregidor on May 6, 1942, American military resistance to the Japanese in the Philippines formally ended (Nadeau 2008, 58). With American support largely focused on the European theater, the Philippines was temporarily abandoned to the Japanese by the Americans (Nadeau 2008, 58). Like in other places in Southeast Asia where the Japanese had seized former European colonies, they largely preserved the native bureaucracy while appointing Japanese overseers and in 1943 even granted “independence to a Philippine puppet government (Nadeau 2008, 59). Large-scale resistance, however, was organized by the Philippine people, with one such group, the Hukbong Bayan laban sa Hapon (HUK), fielding as many of 70,000 fighters (Nadeau 2008, 59). While were also pro-Japanese groups that operated, however, such as the Makabayang Katipunan ng mga Pilipino (Makapili), other resistance groups formed in the Visayas and Mindanao as well. By the time the American forces returned, HUK had, however, managed to push the Japanese out of some regions, like northeastern Luzon, almost entirely (Nadeau 2008, 59). The American push back into the Philippines commenced in the Visayas, when on October 20, 1944 the Americans made an amphibious landing on Leyte which was followed by what is considered one of the largest naval engagements in history, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the commenced on October 23. By early 1945, Japanese resistance in the Philippines was sporadic (Nadeau 2008, 59). With the return of the Americans, however, resistance groups became American targets themselves as they represented not American colonial interests but those of the Philippines’ people and their own aspirations. HUK and other of these movements went underground, and the stage was set for yet another round of occupation, resistance, and nationalist ferment.

Japanese Freight and Concessions in Southeast Asia, 1933-1935

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As Japan increasingly pursued expansionist economic policies, the value of the Japanese populations in Southeast Asia to the economic demands of the nation of Japan became increasingly apparent. Japanese communities, which had largely been focused on prostitution and associated services along with petty trade, gained increasing economic importance. From the 1890s onward, Japanese shipping and Japanese trade offices in Southeast Asia increased, Japanese banks opened, and Japanese increasingly sought employment and business opportunities in colonial extractive industries such as rubber and mining which in turn helped meet growing Japanese state demands for raw materials in the expansionist economy. Simultaneously, Japanese consulates were established in major urban areas such as Singapore and Manila, with several established in the first two decades of the twentieth century in Batavia, Surabaya, and Davao. With increasingly apparent imperial aspirations, and victories over China and Russia, the Japanese began to be viewed with some alarm by the colonial powers in Southeast Asia. Increasing Japanese involvement in trade, additional relations with local populations, growing Japanese populations associated to such trade, and the increase in Japanese shipping activities became matters of concern in light of Japan’s emergence as a regional powerhouse.

The increase of Japanese vessels on the shipping lanes emerged as one matter of concern. Nippon Yusen, financed by Mitusbishi, had a regular Kobe-Manila shipping line by 1982 and a Bombey route by 1894 (Shiraishi and Shiraishi, 10). Before 1920, not only was there a regular Java shipping line run by Nanyo Yusen but also branch offices of these two major shipping companies as well as Yamashita Kisen established in Singapore (Shiraishi and Shiraishi, 10). A dispatch from September 4, 1933, a summary of a report by the Chief of Shipping Services of the Dutch East Indies, identified Japanese shipping as a “threat” to Dutch interests (103). Shipping within the Dutch East Indies, on China-Japan lines, African lines, Burmese lines, and Europe-Java and Europe-East Asia lines where all indicated as routes suffering due to cheap and aggressive Japanese freight lines, many of of which continued to fly the Japanese flag (103, 104). These freight companies had the advantage of not only a depreciated yen and cheap labor, but also assistance from Japanese ministries and subsidies, and were described in the dispatch as “nationalistic . . . [and] not without arrogance” (104, 105). Indeed, the report connected the rise and state support for such shipping with “an almost aggressive expansion of overseas interest” (106). The increase in shipping, as well as the Japanese efforts, it seemed, to map out Dutch East Indies shipping lines, harbors and oil pipelines were also considered troubling by the British Consul-General in Batavia (127-128).

Another example of such worries was the British concern demonstrated about the large lease of land to the Japanese company Nanyo Kohatsu Kaisha in the Dutch East Indies in November of 1935 (3, 4, 5, 7). The company itself was linked to a Japanese financial institution, the Oriental Development Company, which had supplied capitol to Nanyo Kohatsu Kaisha; Nanyo Ringo Timber Exploitation Company, also operating in Southeast Asia; and other organizations engaged in development in “Japanese colonies, China, and the South Seas” (11). The Nanyo Kohatsu Kaisha concession, granted in Dutch New Guinea, was a topic of interest for British, with inquiries being made as to the details. The acting Consul-General of the British Consulate in Batavia addressed some of the concerns by outlining Dutch plans to prevent the development of Japanese-dominated ports as well minimizing their contact with local populations, particularly in restive provinces (7). The potential of Japanese official involvement with nationalist leaders had already been realized by the late summer of 1933, when the British Consul-General reported on contacts between the Japanese and Muhammad Hatta on Java (125). The worries were put clearly: in case of war, such ports could be used to stage attacks on Singapore and other western interests or used as submarine bases, and such restive populations could be mobilized into rebellion. While a more or less “open port policy” was in effect in the Dutch East Indies, the was an awareness that Japanese dominated ports were a potential threat (109). Intelligence reports on the matter of the concession, originating from Australia, noted that although the importation of some labor from Japan had evidently been approved by the Dutch East India authorities, the Dutch “opposed any Japanese settlement savouring colonisation” (9). Such concentrations of population could be used as staging grounds for martial actions in the case of Japanese aggression.

It seems that there was a rising awareness that the increased economic interest of Japan in Southeast Asia along with the increasing nationalism, colonial aspirations and “pan-Asia” rhetoric was a reason for concern. Yet, in 1935 the story was very much the same as in 1933. Despite a growing awareness that Japan represented a potential threat to the European colonial order, large concessions were still being made to Japanese companies and the formation “shipping blocs” to resist Japanese domination of the freight lines was seen as a need but was yet unrealized. Able to recognize the dangers that entrenched Japanese interests represented, it seems that the colonial powers were unable, perhaps because of bureaucratic inertia, to address it.

A Note on Shiraishi & Shiraishi, The Japanese in Colonial Southeast Asia

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Shiraishi, S., & Shiraishi, T. (1993). The Japanese in Colonial Southeast Asia (Vol. 3). Ithaca: SEAP Publications.

The fact that many Japanese immigrant communities did not continue on pass the Japanese withdrawal from Southeast Asia at the end of the second World War has led many to describe these as “shallow communities,” economic extensions of Japan’s own expansionist economic policies of the time (6). Communities, while never large when compared with the immigrant communities of Chinese or Europeans, were to be found in most major urban centers in Southeast Asia and Davoa (7). Turn of the century Japanese communities were largely centered economically around prostitution, but with the disruptions caused in Europe by the first World War caused an increasing dependance on Asian-produced goods (8,9). Fledgling Japanese communities increasingly became conduits for Japanese-produced goods, and economic growth at least in some places such as the Dutch East Indies was assisted by the higher status gained by Japanese after a series of Japanese martial victories against China and Russia (9). From the 1890s onward, Japanese shipping and Japanese trade offices in Southeast Asia increased, Japanese banks opened, and Japanese increasingly sought employment and business opportunities in colonial extractive industries such as rubber and mining which in turn helped meet growing Japanese state demands for raw materials in the expansionist economy (10). Simultaneously, Japanese consulates were established in major urban areas such as Singapore and Manila, with several established in the first two decades of the twentieth century in Batavia, Surabaya, and Davao (13). These consulates collected information on the population, including number and occupation for Japanese bur varying somewhat for non-Japanese citizens of the Japanese controlled colonies (14). With the gradual economic growth of other sectors, the importance of prostitution was diminished and it was formally abolished in many areas from 1912 onwards (15). In some ways the abolition was a milestone in the Japanese movement from a marginal community built around the sex trade to “first class citizens” on par with Europeans in Southeast Asia; Japanese were increasingly integrated into the complex communities of urban Southeast Asia, with associations and schools established to serve the communities as with other communities (17). The abolition also marks the coalescence of Japanese state aspirations and expectations, expressed formally through the consulates, and the aspirations of Japanese living in Southeast Asia, to be “first class citizens” of the modern world.