A Rosario, Batangas-born member of the Makabayang Katipunan ng mga Pilipino, a pro-Japanese World War II group in the Philippines1 commonly referred to as “Makapili,” was sentenced to life imprisonment after having been charged with treason in a post-war Philippine court. From a Supreme Court decision affirming the decision2 of the lower court, we obtain details of the case.
The Makapili member in question was one Doroteo Abarintos, born on 27 March 1916 to Filipino parents in the town of Rosario in the province of Batangas. Abarinto was an informer of the Lipa station of the Kempei Tai, the Japanese military police whose operations were aimed at “crushing anti-Japanese sentiment3” in the Philippines.
In the latter part of 1944 and early 1945, a time when United States forces had returned to the Philippines via Leyte and were preparing for the invasion of Luzon, Abarintos was said to have been frequently seen entering and leaving the headquarters of the Kempei Tai in Lipa.
He was also often observed socializing with other Makapili members from Laguna as well as officers of the Kempei Tai in restaurants, cockpits and gambling dens, presumably in Lipa. Witnesses testified about having seen him carrying a pistol and wearing khaki pants and a white shirt, along with a white badge or an armband with Japanese characters on them.
Among Abarintos’ responsibilities, as testified to by a witness, was to point out suspected guerrillas to the Japanese as well as to other Makapili members. This was frequently done at the house of a certain Dr. Gonzales, frequently used as a meeting place for Makapili members.
It has not been made clear if Gonzales’s house was in Lipa — although the likelihood was that it was — but it was there that suspected guerrillas were pointed out to Kempei Tai members through a peephole as they passed by on the road. The arrests of those pointed out would invariably follow.
As an informer, Abarintos was expected to accompany the Japanese when they carried on raids. For instance, on the 4th of December 1944, he was seen accompanying the Japanese when they arrested one Luis Atienza in his own house in barrio Mataasnalupa, just west of the poblacion in Lipa. Atienza was said to have begged Abarintos to intercede on his behalf. The latter’s reply was that it was not possible because he was a guerrilla.
|A massacre site in Lipa, Batangas. Image credit: United States NARA.
Abarintos was also said to have taken a “very active part” in a Japanese operation conducted on the 17th of February 1945. The raiding party went to the house of one Leonardo Rodelas in the barrio of Pagolingin Bata, Lipa, early that day.
All the men were ordered to come down from the house, after which they were tied up and taken to a spot some 100 meters from the house. More men were brought to the area by the Japanese, after which several persons were killed and the barrio was burned.
Abarintos actually was said to have also participated in a more chilling incident four days earlier in the barrio of Santo Niño, also in Lipa. Armed with a revolver and a bolo, he and other members of the Makapili joined the Japanese and were instrumental in the rounding up of some 200 locals along the banks of a nearby creek.
The locals were all tied up up and then separated as to whether they had passes or not. Those who had passes were said to have been taken to the upper banks of the Kicordon River or Creek4, where they were killed. Later, those who did not have passes were also killed. Survivors of this massacre testified that Abarintos himself participated in herding the victims by twos to the massacre site.
While the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision of reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment imposed upon Abarintos, in a way, the latter was fortunate in that he escaped the charge of multiple murders.
In its decision, the court ruled: ”...from the admitted fact that those individuals5 were civilians, it would be far-fetched to suppose that appellant thought or believed that the Japanese were going to kill them, instead of merely holding them under custody. At any rate, we entertain reasonable doubt as to this point.”
2 Most of the details of this article from “The People of the Philippines v Doroteo Abarintos,” online at the Chan-Robles Law Library.
3 From the bibliographic entry for “The Kempei Tai in the Philippines, 1941-1945, by Ma. Felisa A. Syjuco,” online at the Filipinas Heritage Library.
4 Batangas History, Culture & Folklore is unable to determine or confirm the existence of this river or creek. It is possible that it has dried up or that it is presently known by a different name.
5 The term “individuals” pertained to the massacre victims.