Testimony of Governor Fortunato Borbon on Japanese Atrocities Committed in Batangas Province in 1945 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore Testimony of Governor Fortunato Borbon on Japanese Atrocities Committed in Batangas Province in 1945 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

Testimony of Governor Fortunato Borbon on Japanese Atrocities Committed in Batangas Province in 1945

This page contains the testimony of Acting Governor Colonel Fortunato Borbon on Japanese atrocities committed in Batangas Province in 1945. The pages contained herein are now declassified and were part of compiled documentation1 of war crimes trials conducted by the United States Military Commission after the conclusion of World War II. This transcription has been corrected for grammar where necessary by Batangas History, Culture and Folklore. The pagination is as it was contained in the original document for citation purposes.

[p. 2516]


called as witness on behalf of the Prosecution, being first duly sworn, was examined and testified through as follows:


Q (By Captain Pace) Give your name, please.
A Fortunato Borbon.
Q Are you a member of the Philippine Army?
A Yes, sir.
Q What is your rank, sir?
A Colonel of the Philippine Army.
Q What is your present assignment?
A I am the acting Provincial Governor of Batangas Province.
Q Now, prior to that, when the Japanese came to the Philippines, where were you, then?
A I was in Cebu City, in 1941 and 1942.
Q What was your assignment, then?
A I was commanding the 83rd Infantry of the USAFFE.
Q Where you captured by the Japanese in Cebu?
A Yes, sir.
Q How long were you held as a prisoner of war?
A Five months.
Q Then did you return to Batangas?
A No, sir, I remained in Cebu a year, for almost — I was captured after I had stayed in the mountains for

[p. 2517]

six months, in the mountains of Cebu and Bohol Island.
Q After you were captured, you were held a prisoner of war for five months; is that right, sir?
A Yes, sir.
Q And when did you return to Batangas?
A In 1943.
Q When were you appointed Governor of the Province of Batangas?
A I was appointed Governor on February 1, 1945, in Nasugbu, when the 11th Airborne arrived in Nasugbu, Batangas Province, January 31, 1945.

(A document was marked Pro-
secution Exhibit No. 342
for identification.)

Q After you became Governor of Batangas, did you set about to organize the provincial government and the municipal governments there?
A Yes, sir.
Q Will you look at Exhibit 342 for identification and tell what that is?
A This is my memorandum to all municipal mayors and chiefs of police at Batangas Province to conduct a complete investigation of deaths and number of houses burned by the Japanese.
Q This is an official record of the Province of Batangas which was issued by you, sir?
A Yes, sir.

CAPTAIN PACE: I offer it in evidence.

GENERAL REYNOLDS: There being no objection, it is accepted in evidence.

[p. 2518]

(Prosecution Exhibit No.
342 for identification
was received in evidence.)

Q (By Captain Pace) In addition to instructing the mayors of Batangas to conduct investigations into the fatalities resulting from Japanese activity, did you personally go around the province, investigating?
A Yes, sir. I went around the province for the purpose of investigating the conditions of the province.
Q Did you spend a great deal of time doing that?
A Yes, sir.

(A document was marked
Prosecution Exhibit No.
343 for identification.)

Q And as a result of the investigations conducted by you personally, and those conducted by subordinates who reported to you, did you gain a wide knowledge of the affairs of the people in Batangas, with particular relation to the crimes committed by the Japanese?
A Yes, sir.
Q Will you look at Exhibit 243 for identification and state what it is?
A This is my report to the Honorable Secretary of the Interior in Manila, about the conditions of the Province of Batangas.
Q Does that truly represent what you found to exist in your province?
A Yes, sir.
Q Is that an official report to the Secretary of the Interior of this Commonwealth? A Yes, sir.

[p. 2419]

CAPTAIN PACE: I offer it in evidence.

GENERAL REYNOLDS: In view of the length of the document, it will be considered tomorrow morning after Defense has had an opportunity to study it.

(A document was marked
Prosecution Exhibit No.
344 for identification.)

Q (By Captain Pace) Now, since you submitted those two reports to the Secretary of the Interior of the Commonwealth, have you compiled additional information and received additional reports from your mayors?
A Yes, sir, I received additional reports from the mayors.
Q Will you look at Exhibit 344 for identification and tell what it is?
A This is the consolidated report by municipalities of all the atrocities committed by the Japanese in the Province of Batangas.
Q Is that based on the records which you have in your office?
A Yes, sir.
Q And on the reports which you have received?
A Yes, sir.
Q And to the best of your knowledge, is that a correct report of the number of people killed in Batangas?
A Yes, sir.
Q Is the figure two thousand —
A 25,709.
Q That is, in your opinion, the correct number of people killed by the Japanese in your province?

[p. 2520]

A Yes, sir.

CAPTAIN PACE: I offer Exhibit 344 for identification in evidence, sir.

GENERAL REYNOLDS: Is this a separate exhibit, or is it a part of the official report which was the last one considered?

CAPTAIN PACE: It is a separate one, sir. This is the most current information on that subject. The other report is more general and not as recent.

GENERAL REYNOLDS: Is this an amendment or an addition to some other exhibit which has been considered in this case?

CAPTAIN PACE: It represents figures which are similar to those testified to by others. It also contains new information, of which there is no evidence before the Commission.

CAPTAIN REEL: Sir, the Defense objects to this exhibit. Our objection will be on the same grounds as the objection that we will undoubtedly have to the prior exhibit. We haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but from a cursory glance, it is quite apparent that the two are related. Now, if it is the desire of the Commission, we can state the grounds of our objection to this paper at this time; otherwise, we can state the whole thing tomorrow morning.

GENERAL REYNOLDS: It is the desire of the Commission that the two documents be considered at the same time, and consideration on the exhibit in question is deferred until tomorrow morning.

[p. 2521]

CAPTAIN REEL: May I request, sir, that the reporter mark the questions and answers that preceded the introduction of these two statements, because it may well be that tomorrow morning, we will ask to have those stricken, and we will want to refer to them.


Q (By Captain Pace) Are you able to state how many people were killed in your province by the Japanese?
A More or less around 25,709, according to my records.

CAPTAIN PACE: Thank you, sir.

CAPTAIN REEL: Now, sir, we will ask that that be stricken. We haven’t any foundation of this witness’ statement. We don’t know on what he bases his information. That, again, is a restatement of those two exhibits. If this is to be considered tomorrow, we ask that the entire matter be referred until tomorrow.

GENERAL REYNOLDS: The objection of counsel is sustained. The last question and the last answer are stricken from the record.

CAPTAIN PACE: You may cross examine.


Q (By Captain Reel) This investigation that was conducted, I think you said you personally went around investigating conditions of the province, is that correct?
A Yes, sir.
Q And between what dates did you personally go around and investigate?
A The dates?
Q Yes.

[p. 2522]

A I began investigations since the months of March and April; since the month of March, I began going around inspecting the province and studying the condition of the province.
Q When did you finish your tour of investigation of conditions in the province?
A I have already finished the report, the submission of my report in the month of April.
Q In the month of April?
A Yes, sir.
Q So the whole investigation covered one month, March to April?
A Two months; March and April.
Q In started in the beginning of March?
A About the beginning of March. I am not very sure about the dates, exact dates.
Q Can you give us some approximation of the date when you finished?
A In the month of April. I am not very sure of the exact date when I was finished, but the entire month of April.
Q Well now, your report that you have offered as Exhibit 343 for identification, the first letter is dated 27 March 1945. Does that refresh your recollection as to when you completed your investigation?
A That was not completed yet, because I went around yet by the month of April, in the following month.
Q I see. Alright. The second letter, supplementing the report of the 27th of March, is dated the 21st of

[p. 2523]

April, 1945. Does that refresh your recollection as to when you finished your investigation?
A Well, that is more or less the time when I finished my investigation.
Q You finished before you wrote that letter, is that right?
A Yes, sir.
Q And the order that you got out for the mayors and chiefs of police is dated April 2, 1945. Does that refresh your recollection as to when you started your investigation?
A Well, I issued that order in order to amplify more the reports of my mayors.
Q I see. Now, in your investigation, did you go to all the barrios in Batangas?
A Only the barrios that I could reach; not all the barrios.
Q And how many did you go to?
A I went to one barrio in Lipa, Batangas.
Q One barrio in Lipa?
A Yes, in the month — about in March, and I found 300 or 400 Filipinos dead with their arms tied behind, at the back of the town of Lipa.
Q Alright. Now, what other barrios, without getting into details as to what you found in each one; I just want to know the barrios that you went to. You went to one barrio in Lipa, is that right?
A Well, there are so many barrios there that I could not remember very well the names of the barrios, but he

[p. 2524]

only barrio that I remember very well was very significant for my inspection, was the one in Lipa.
Q Is that the only barrio in Lipa that you went to?
A The only place that I have been there.
Q Now, did you go to barrios in other municipalities in Batangas?
A I went around.
Q Well, can you tell us, without telling us the details of what you found, just which barrios you personally went to?
A Well, I simply passed through the barrios. I did not conduct more investigation, because the mayors themselves had done the other investigations.
Q Yes. Now, which barrios, if any, did you yourself conduct the investigation in, besides the one in Lipa?
A I cannot remember very well now.
Q Well, were there any besides the one in Lipa, in which you personally conducted the investigation?
A I cannot remember now exactly all the barrios, because most of these other barrios are not passable by automobile or jeep.
Q And the information you put into your report is based on what was told to you by the barrio lieutenants?
A That is the report that they rendered to me, so I took it for granted that that is the official report.
Q Yes. It is not anything you know of your own personal knowledge; it is that they told you, is that right?
A That is right.
Q Now, is it true that the entire Province of Batangas

[p. 2525]

was the center of warfare during the months of January, February and March of 1945; is that true?
A That is true.
Q And there was considerable bombing and shelling and combat destruction?
A There were, between the Americans and the Japanese.
Q Yes, and there were also some guerrilla bands operating, were there not?
A Also the guerrillas.
Q And many buildings were destroyed in the course of the warfare?
A The Japanese burned the houses of many towns.
Q Didn’t the Americans bomb some buildings, too, in Batangas?
A Not that I know.
Q No buildings at all were bombed by the American airplanes in the whole Province of Batangas?
A Maybe a few houses, but not much.
Q And there was some artillery shelling by both sides in Batangas, wasn’t there?
A There were, but it did not destroy exactly the town; maybe one or two houses.
Q One or two houses; alright. And some people were killed in that warfare, were they not?
A I have not received any report to that effect.
Q You haven’t any report on that at all. The only report you got is the report that is here as Exhibit 343 and Exhibit 344, is that right?
A That is the only report I got.

[p. 2526]

Q Now, about these guerrilla bands, were there some guerrilla raids in Batangas during this period?
A There were guerrilla raids against the Japanese.
Q And were you a member of the guerrillas?
A Guerrillas, against the Japanese — (pause)
Q Were you a member?
A I was a member of the guerrillas myself.
Q And what organization were you a member of?

MAJOR KERR: If the Commission, please, this is wholly beyond the scope of the direct examination of this gentleman.

CAPTAIN REEL: Sir, I know of no rule that limits cross examination to matters brought out on direct. Major Kerr may have reference to a rule that exists in a few of the states in the United States, but, as I think we pointed out early in the proceedings, he was the man who took the position that even the ordinary rules of evidence didn’t apply, much less peculiar rules peculiar to certain states.

GENERAL REYNOLDS: The Commission desires to be liberal, both to the Prosecution and the Defense, in the examination of witnesses. It does not see why cross examination of this witness as to his guerrilla connections would serve any useful purpose. Could counsel explains?

CAPTAIN REEL: Yes, sir. We do not maintain that any organization of this witness as to his guerrilla activities serves any useful purpose on the question of his direct testimony on these exhibits that have been

[p. 2527]

offered; we have covered that. It has to do only with the general picture of the case, and we feel it would be helpful to the Commission in deciding matters that have to do with other aspects of the case. This witness, incidentally, is on under specifications number 1, which certainly covers the entire picture.

MAJOR KERR: Sir, if the Defense is to be permitted to use the Prosecution’s witnesses for its own purposes, entirely without connection to the testimony which we adduce upon direct examination, certainly the Prosecution cannot be responsible for the time it takes to put before the Commission its case. Now, conceivably, according to Defense Counsel’s own statement, he may now proceed to ask him any one of the questions which they might want to bring out on their own defense case.

GENERAL REYNOLDS: Well, the Commission well understands that. Let us exclude the details of this witness’ connection with guerrilla activities. If he has any real knowledge of guerrilla activities in the area under question at this time, it should be presented quickly, and the Commission will hear it.

CAPTAIN REEL: Yes, sir. I will just ask the witness a few questions.

Q (By Captain Reel) Are you familiar with the guerrilla activities that were carried on in the Province of Batangas in the latter part of 1944 and early part of 1945?
A I am.
Q Can you give us in brief the areas, the municipali-

[p. 2528]

ties in Batangas, where the guerrillas were especially active? Can you give us the list of those?
A Practically in all the province, the entire Province of Batangas, the guerrilla activities — they were all active in the Province of Batangas.
Q Were they especially active in the neighborhood of Lipa?
A Also.
Q Santo Tomas?
A All parts of the Batangas Province.
Q All through the province. And did those activities consist of frequent raids upon the Japanese supply lines? Was that part of the activity?
A Part of the activity of the guerrillas.
Q And especially on the military roads, the roads that were used by the military?
A Yes.
Q Did it also consist, in part, of raids upon civilians who were friendly to the Japanese?
A Not that I know.
Q Do you know of any civilian homes that were burned by the guerrillas because the occupants were friendly to the Japanese?
A I do not know anything about that.
Q You don’t know of any?

(The witness shook his head negatively.)

Q And in addition to the actual guerrilla activities, were the guerrillas supported in large part by the help of the civilians in various barrios?

[p. 2529]

A Will you please clarify that question?

(Question read.)

A No.
Q Wasn’t money donated by civilians in Batangas Province to the guerrillas?
A (Pause.)

CAPTAIN REEL: Will you read the question?

(Question read.)

A I do not know that now.

CAPTAIN REEL: Sir, I should like to as the witness relative to the armor.

Q (By Captain Reel) Were the guerrillas armed?
A They were armed, some of them were armed.
Q And with what?
A Different kinds of arms, rifles, shotguns.
Q And many of them carried bolos?
A Bolos; all kinds of arms.
Q And were there persons in the barrios, civilians, who acted as intelligence units for the guerrillas, would inform the guerrillas as to where the Japanese were?
A Not necessarily, because the guerrillas themselves had their own intelligence sections in every unit.
Q That is right, but in addition to that, weren’t they aided by civilians in the various towns?
A No, not necessarily.

(The witness shook his head negatively.)

CAPTAIN REEL: One more question, if I may.

Q (By Captain Reel) Did the guerrillas of which you

[p. 2530]

speak wear uniforms?
A Not uniforms.
Q Did they wear any armbands?
A Some, in khaki uniforms like this (indicating); some wearing semi-military uniform, some in disguise, civilian uniform.
Q Did they wear armbands?
A No.
Q Any armbands?
A No.

CAPTAIN REEL: That is all.

CAPTAIN PACE: One more question, sir.


Q (By Captain Pace) You testified that a great number of people were killed in Batangas by the Japanese; is that right?
A Yes.
Q Were those people guerrillas?
A They were not guerrillas.
Q Could you estimate how many guerrillas were killed by the Japanese in Batangas?
A Maybe a few, three or four or five guerrillas that happened to be captured.

GENERAL REYNOLDS: The Commission interrupts and terminates the questioning of this witness, and we shall recess for ten minutes.

(Witness excused.)

Manila War Crimes Trial US Army
Photo taken during the war crimes trials in Manila.  Image credit:  U.S. National Archives.

Notes and references:
1 “Excerpts from the Testimony of Fortunato Borbon in U.S.A. v Tomoyuki Yamashita,” part of the U.S. Military Commission compilation of war crimes documentation, online at the Internet Archive.
Next Post Previous Post