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December 29, 2017

Lt. Max Brabson’s Report on the Rillo Neri Unit

The Rillo-Neri Unit was a guerrilla organization that was allegedly formed in the town of Balayan, and again allegedly by the authority coming from Col. Hugh Straughn, founder of the Fil-American Irregular Troops. It was supposed to have conducted intelligence work, kept peace and order and helped in the evacuation of the citizens of Balayan, Lemery and Tuy. Its combat team was also said to have participated in combat during the liberation of Batangas. While this guerrilla group failed to obtain full recognition from the United States Army, 130 of its members were recognized as a combat team and another 400 gained recognition with another guerrilla outfit, the Blue Eagle Brigade. In this document1, Lt. Max Brabson of the United States Army filed his investigative report on the guerrilla unit after its application for official recognition.

[p. 1]

REPORT ON “RILLO NERI UNIT”

In accordance with verbal instructions from Chief of Section, Guerrilla Affairs, G-3, AFWESPAC, Lieutenant Max L. Brabson proceeded to Balayan, Batangas on 24 June to contact the Rillo Neri Unit, in order to determine whether or not this organization should be recognized by the United States Army. The following report is a summary of the investigation and basis for the recommendation.

ALLEGED HISTORY

The Rillo Neri Unit was organized on 2 June 1942 by Salvador B. Rillo of Balayan, Batangas. The unit consisted of three battalions totaling 3,090 members. The Regiment was formed by authority of Col Hugh S. Straughn. Approximately 530 members have previously been recognized.

Before the landing of the American forces, the Rillo Neri Unit was engaged in intelligence work, training of officers and enlisted men, keeping peace and order and keeping several American soldiers who escaped from Corregidor and Bataan. Also, the shuttle of American flyers shot down in Central Luzon to Mindoro was a responsibility of this unit. It was further responsible for the evacuation of civilians from the towns of Balayan, Lemery and Tuy, Batangas. The combat company of the Rillo Neri Unit did patrol work and guard duty under a Lt. McDonald who was with the 158th RCT of the 11th Airborne Division. The unit had approximately 175 weapons in 1944 including over 100 paltiks (homemade, single shot weapons) while the unit strength was 3,090.

The following named persons were those interviewed by the Contact Team and their statements are the basis for the findings:

Commdr George F Rowe – SWPA Advance Party, Mindoro
Col. Quintin Gellidon – 11th AB Staff Off Guerr Sec
Rafael Ilagan – Lt Col Bn Commander
Salvador Rillo – Unit Commander
Diosdado Shellor Capt – CO Co C
Angel Ransig – Capt
Clemente Salle – Capt
Basilio Zuñiga – Capt
Modesto Zuñiga - Capt
Hugo Ilagan – 1st Lt.
Antonio Lainez – 1st Lt.
Pascual de la Vega – 1st Lt.
Simeon Ilaw – 1st Lt.
Marrillo Liwanag – 1st Lt.
Manuel Beses – 1st Lt.
Bonifacio Magahis - 1st Lt.
Guillermo Baylosis – 1st Lt.
Maximo Ilagan – 2nd Lt.
Alejandro Capasion – S/Sgt
Juan Bandelaria – S/Sgt

[p. 2]

Mariano Mercado – S/Sgt
Lucas Caraey – Sgt
Arcadio Avena – Sgt
Mariano Encarnacion – Sgd
Severino Algado – PFC
Bonifacio Beba – Cpl
Benigno Castelo – Pfc
Bernardino Mendoza – Pfc
Primitivo Basco – Pfc
Juan Arroyo – Pfc
Ignacio Marcellana – Pfc
Martin Mayuga - Pfc

During the interview, numerous individuals stated that they lived at home throughout the occupation. Their duty was spying upon the Japanese troop movements, types and amounts of equipment. Several members were employed by the municipal government and were always in the town as intelligence operatives. Many members claimed to have lived in the mountains on a part time basis. It was claimed that the rotation policy was carried out, i.e. a man would spend a week in the mountains then a week at home.

Lt Col Jose Manzano, Battalion Commander of the 1st Bn, told many lavish tales of the night life and night clubs he attended in Manila during the occupation. He further stated that he did not know of more than 500 true, active guerrillas in Western Batangas, however, he was commanding a battalion of a larger strength than that. Manzano is considered by other guerrilla leaders a supporter of the guerrilla movement but not a guerrilla himself.

During 1944, the unit had a total of 175 weapons, including over 100 paltiks (homemade, single shot weapons), while at this time the strength was 3,090. Practically none of the men interviewed claimed to have owned weapons during the occupation. A few claimed bolos as weapons.

The unit presented orders and letters from Maj. Jay D. Vanderpool, Capt Schommer of guerrilla headquarters, 11th AB Div., and Lt. Carl L. Rogers. These were orders pertaining to the unit as a whole and do not assist in clarifying the number of members nor the number of weapons. One of these letters is a reprimand to Col Rillo because the unit was operating against orders and was causing more trouble than good. It appears that only a small percentage of the total membership actually served with the American troops.

Just before the liberation of Batangas, approximately 400 members or one battalion of the Rillo-Neri unit joined the Blue Eagle Brigade and were recognized with that unit. This group of men, according to Col. Rillo, were eager for combat so they joined the Blue Eagle which was engaging the Japanese in combat. A number of individual spontaneous actions were narrated to the contact team during the interview by various individuals.

Col Rillo was imprisoned by the Japanese from 5 August 1943 till

[p. 3]

25 April 1944, in Fort Santiago and old Bilibid prison. During his concentration, the work was carried on by his wife who is not carried in the roster asking for recognition. While imprisoned, Col Rillo made contacts with various underground organizations which included units of the ECLGA, Marking’s Fil-Americans and numerous minor units. However, today he has none of the orders and communications issued during his imprisonment. During the period preceding the arrival of American forces, the unit followed the lay low policy and was not active on a full time basis throughout the period now being claimed.

In addition to the 400 men recognized with the Blue Eagle Brigade, the unit had approximately 130 men belonging to a combat company which has been recognized. Some members are also carried in the roster of the Special Service Unit ECLGA of Balayan, Batangas.

The unit claims to have aided several American soldiers who escaped from Corregidor and Bataan but they have no proof or documentary evidence of these claims. Aid to the American soldiers is also claimed by numerous units in Cavite and Batangas. It is unlikely that the Rillo Neri Unit was solely responsible for these persons because the Blue Eagle Brigade has had 6,269 men recognized from the vicinity of Balayan, Tuy, Lemery and surrounding barrios. The Blue Eagle also claims to have cared for the Americans. Sabotage of the cotton that the Japanese forced the peasants to plant is also claimed as an underground movement by this unit.

The certificates presented could have been used for the previously recognized portion and they do not necessarily pertain to the unit now being investigated.

Commdr. Rowe stated that the guerrilla units in Western Batangas were very small and the liberation caused a big influx in the guerrilla rosters of that area.

Col. Quinto Gellidon stated that the Rillo Neri Unit consisted of approximately three companies of which one was the recognized Combat Company.

POLITICAL ASPECTS

There are no evident political affiliations or aspirations.

RECOMMENDATIONS

After careful consideration of the statements made by the present members and an analysis of the documents presented, it is recommended that with the exception of those members previously recognized, the “Rillo Neri Unit” be not favorably considered for recognition.

[Sgd.] MAX L. BRABSON
2d Lt. Inf.

Concurred in by Chief of Section Capt. Douglas C. Murray.


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Notes and references:

1 “Rillo-Neri (Lipa Guerrilla Headquarters Combat Team),” File No. 110-9, online at PVAO.


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