The Prevalence of Bandits in Batangas in 1905 and American Moves to Suppress Them
[Batangas Province, ladrones, brigands, outlaws, tulisanes, ladrones habeas corpus, General Henry Clark Corbin, United Stations Army Philippine Division, Colonel Baker Philippine Constabulary]
Just over two years after the surrender of General Miguel Malvar to the United States Army, effectively putting an end to the Philippine-American War, the province of Batangas was still far from being in a state of peace and normalcy. Partly, this was because in the second half of 1904, bands of outlaws which the Americans called “ladrones1” (or “tulisanes” as they were known in Tagalog) started becoming more active not just in Batangas but also in the neighboring provinces of Cavite, Laguna and Tayabas (presently Quezon)2.
An excerpt from the annual report of the Department of Commerce and the Police illustrates what a nuisance these brigands were to local communities:
“They grew bolder, established a system of taxation by which everyone within their reach was mulcted as much as they thought he could pay, from 1 peso into the hundreds of pesos, from the ‘hacienderos’ or owners of plantations. They established an underground system of communication, maintained by agents known as ‘inahins.’ Their collections were largely made by intimidation, and they threatened those who didn’t pay or who reported their operations with punishment so horrible that most of the people found it easier to pay and keep quiet about it than to run the risk of torture or mutilation if they refused or told.”
Because of the ease with which these groups of bandits made money, some began to attract more members. Still others saw wisdom in merging with other groups. As a consequence, the larger groups of bandits began to get more brazen and left their isolated lairs to raid the larger towns.
In 1905, for instance, “several bands, having joined and increased their numbers by several hundred volunteers, marched into the town of Taal, in the province of Batangas, looted the municipal treasury of ₱15,000, and carried off 25 guns, the whole equipment of the municipal police, one of whom was killed.”
Although Batangas had been returned to civilian rule in 1902 as per the directions of the Philippine Commission, the present situation in 1904 warranted the participation of the United States Army. Cavite, Batangas, Rizal and Laguna were declared a provisional or temporary district where the writ of habeas corpus3 was suspended. The temporary district was placed under the command of one Colonel Baker of the Constabulary, who set up headquarters in the town of Lipa.
Major General Henry Clark Corbin, Commander of the Philippine Division of the United States Army, then ordered “the 3rd squadron of the 2nd Cavalry and four companies of the 7th Infantry, under Major F. W. Sibley, to take the field and assist the civil authorities in the restoration of order.”
The Americans were aware that by and large, the native population within the provisional district did not really like the presence of or cooperating with the bandits. However, the reader has to understand that this was just two years after the end of the Philippine-American war, during which the civilian population of Batangas, in particular, had to live for half a year effectively in incarceration in concentration camps.
“The Americans did not find that the natives liked the ‘ladrones,’ but that they feared them and, fearing them, were unwilling to help the authorities until assured of ultimate protection. It is natural that a property owner in Batangas should hesitate to give information as to the whereabouts of the ‘ladrones’ to the Americans, whom he has not yet learned to like, and with the certainty that his draft animals would be driven off, his buildings burnt, and possibly worse outrages perpetrated on the persons of himself and his family as soon as the ‘ladrones’ had opportunity to wreak vengeance.”
The Americans, thus, needed to demonstrate to the local inhabitants of Batangas and the other provinces within the provisional district that their campaign against the ‘ladrones’ was in earnest and would not cease until their leaders had been either captured or killed.
Once reassured, the locals started to cooperate with the American authorities. The response from the civilian population was “ready, energetic and complete. For weeks, news was brought day by day from all parts telling exactly where this, that or another “ladrone” leader has passed, and finally it got so that the American officers knew each day where the leaders had passed the night before.”
With community support obtained, before long American authorities were efficiently able to track the bandits down.
“…finally, one by one they fell into the toils, some being killed in action, others captured, and others, worried by the continued pursuit, came in and surrendered, preferring to take the chance of the courts to the certainty of dogged pursuit, with the rain of bullets into the camp at dawn, that had characterized the last weeks of their outlaw life.”
Notes and references:1 From the word “ladron,” meaning thief in Spanish.
2 Most of the information from this article comes from “Annual Report of the Department of Commerce and Police for the Year Ending June 30, 1905,” part of the Annual Report of the Secretary of War 1905, Volume 12.
3 “Habeas corpus is a recourse in law through which a person can report an unlawful detention or imprisonment to a court and request that the court order the custodian of the person, usually a prison official, to bring the prisoner to court, to determine whether the detention is lawful.” Wikipedia