A Hilario Laro.
Q Can you testify in English or do you prefer to testify in Tagalog?
A Tagalog. (Witness answered before the question was interpreted to him.)
A I remember.
Q Where were you on that date?
A I was in the barrio of Pisa.
Q Is the barrio of Pisa within the municipality of Taal?
A Yes, sir.
Q Did anything unusual occur at that time and place?
A Something happened at that time.
Q What hour of the day did it happen?
A From around three to four in the afternoon — excuse me, from ten in the morning to four in the afternoon.
Q What was the first thing that was unusual that you saw or heard?
A Around ten in the morning, I saw houses put on fire and some shots.
Q Who, if you know, was burning the houses?
A The Japanese.
A From ten to eleven I was in the house.
Q Did anything happen while you were in your house?
A Not yet.
Q Then when did you leave your house?
A At around twelve, we left the house because we saw people running and shouting that the Japanese were killing the people so they went to a ravine and hid themselves.
Q Who went with you to the ravine?
A My father, my mother, my cousin and I don’t know whether it was a brother or sister because it was — my mother, sister and cousins.
Q And when you arrived at the ravine, how many other people were there, if any?
A We were about 150, that is my estimation.
Q What happened next?
A At around 3:30, they saw us. We were asked to go up the ravine one by one.
Q Whom do you mean when you say “they saw us?”
A The Japanese soldiers with bayonets.
Q How many Japanese soldiers did you see at that time?
A Around forty.
Q Could you tell whether any of them were officers?
A I can tell.
Q Have you ever seen any of those officers since that time? Just answer yes or no.
COLONEL POBLETE: Objection sustained, the prosecution should not warn the witness as to what he will answer.
MR GUTHRIE: If your Honor, please, I was just using that method to save time that was a preliminary question to my second question which will expedite matters, that was my only intention in asking it that way.
A At that time when we were being killed, or they were killing us, I saw the officers.
Q Have you seen any of those officers since the time the people were being killed?
A No, sir.
MR. GUTHRIE: There is only one thing, I don’t think the witness understood my last question. I don’t want the defense to say that during this recess, I have straightened him out. I would like to ask one more question so he understands the last question.
COLONEL HAMBY: Proceed.
MR. GUTHRIE: (To the interpreter) Ask him if he understands the last question.
COLONEL HAMBY: Proceed.
MR. MORRISON: Objection, the witness testified he did not see them.
MR. GUTHRIE: That is the trouble we tried to avoid in our conference yesterday, one of the matters taken up at that time, I have lost the trend of my question. If counsel will wait until I finish my question, I will give him plenty of time to object.
Will the reporter read the question so far?
(Question was read as directed.)
A What I thought before or understood before was that he was asking me if I saw the officers at that very moment after the killings.
Q What is the answer to this question?
A I saw them.
(The Commission recessed at 1135 hours to reconvene at 1300 hours, this date.)
COLONEL HAMBY: The Commission is in session.
MR. GUTHRIE: Sir, the Commission is present, the accused are present, together with their counsel, the prosecution is present, the reporters, interpreters and all personnel of the Court are present.
At the time of the recess, the witness, Hilario Laro, was on the stand and the direct examination had not been completed. May I proceed now?
COLONEL HAMBY: You may. Remind the witness he is still under oath.
(Interpreter Campomanes interpreted to the witness.)
A Yes, sir.
Q Where did you see those officers, or that officer?
A In LUPOW. [Luzon Japanese prisoner-of-war camp]
Q Do you recall approximately the date that you saw them in LUPOW?
A I cannot recall the date, but it was last year when we went there.
Q Do you see in this courtroom at this present time the person you identified at LUPOW?
A Yes, I do see.
Q Will you indicate to the Commission which person that is?
A Shall I point them out?
Q You may.
A Please let them stand.
(Witness arose and indicated one of the accused.)
Q Now, going back to your testimony this morning, where you stated that you had arrived at a ravine and some Japanese soldiers and an officer had come upon the scene, do you know the name of one of those officers, Japanese officers?
A I do not know his name, but I know his face.
Q Well, is he in the courtroom at the present time?
A He is here.
Q Will you point him out?
A (Witness pointed out one of the accused.)
A When they saw us, they asked us to come up or climb the ravine one by one. Then, he told us to line up. When we were already in line, they tied our hands.
Q Whom to you mean when you say “he told us?”
A He was the one who told the soldiers to let us go up. He was the one. (Pointing to Accused Hagino.)
A He did not say a word, he just demonstrated [for] us to go up.
Q Then what happened?
A From the place where we were tied up, we were asked to walk twenty yards away and then they aimed a machine gun and then fired and them some grenades were thrown at us.
Q How were the people tied up?
A The others were tied just at the left hand, but the women were tied in both hands.
Q How many men were tied up, and how many women were tied up?
A I think the men were less than forty. We were about forty men who were tied together. Some seven children were tied together with the women.
Q How many women were tied up?
A More than one hundred.
Q Do I understand your testimony that the men were tied with one long rope and the women with another long rope?
A Yes, sir.
Q What did the men do first?
A We were asked to sit and then the women were placed on top of us.
Q Were you sitting in a circle or in a straight line, or how were you sitting?
A We were sitting in a circle.
Q And what was the next thing that happened?
A They fired machine gun at us and threw us some hand grenades.
A The Japanese.
Q Did you hear any of the Japanese say anything before they fired?
A No, sir.
Q Did any of them make any motions?
A When they [we?] were about to be fired at, they posted a guard on the eastern side and on the western side.
Q What kind of firearms did they use to fire on the group?
A Machine gun and grenades.
Q Then, what happened?
A Then, they covered us with dried leaves and then they left.
Q Were you wounded when the Japanese fired at that time?
A Yes, sir, I was wounded.
Q What part of your body?
A On the left side of my back.
Q Will you show to the court?
A (Witness removed his shirt and showed his wound to the Court.)
A I think it was a hand grenade.
Q Were you still tied after the Japanese left?
A Yes, I was still tied.
A When they left, I heard some shouting. They were asking for help to untie them. I opened my eyes and I also asked [for] some help to untie my hands.
Q And did anyone untie your hands?
A Yes, sir.
Q How long did you stay in the ravine after the Japanese left?
A About half an hour.
Q Did you notice the persons that were at the ravine at that time?
A I know them.
Q How many of those persons were dead after the Japanese left?
A I think one hundred-forty were dead or more.
Q Can you name any of those one hundred and forty persons?
A VICENTA CAPER, IRINEA NAVARRO.
Q Let me interrupt you. Would you also state their ages when you give their names?
A VICENTE CAPER was fifty-five years old. IRINEA NAVARRO was approximately thirty-five years old. CONSOLACION NAVARRO, thirty years; BUENAVENTURA NAVARRO, twenty-nine years old; LEODEGARIO NAVARRO twenty-five years old; LOLITA NAVARRO, fourteen years old; AMANDA NAVARRO, twelve years old; FEDERICO NAVARRO, eight years old; EUSEBIO NAVARRO, forty years old; and PASTORA LARO, twenty-four years old. I cannot remember the rest because they came
A I don’t know why we were killed.
Q Were there any similar killings to February 16, 1945?
A None, sir.
Q Were you a member of any guerrilla unit?
A No, sir, I am not a guerrilla.
Q Do you know of any guerrilla activities in that vicinity?
A I don’t know of any.
Q How long after the incident was it that the Americans landed?
A Since it happened?
Q Yes, after the incident, how long was it that it happened?
A I think one month, after then, they came.
COLONEL HAMBY: Questions by the Commission? There appearing to be none, the witness is excused.
|Photo taken during the war crimes trials in Manila. Image credit: U.S. National Archives.|
1 “Excerpts from the Testimony of Hilario Laro in U.S.A. v Shumpei Hagino, et al.,” part of the U.S. Military Commission compilation of war crimes documentation, online at the Internet Archive.