Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos is remembered to have served the Philippines with utmost honor and patriotism during its most trying time. He was executed by the Japanese during World War II for refusing to collaborate.
When war broke out in December of 1941 Abad Santos was serving as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in the Commonwealth of the Philippines. That same month the Japanese started to land in the Philippines, and there was a need to reorganize the system of the Commonwealth Government. Abad Santos was chosen to be the Chief Justice and to concurrently serve as a member of the Cabinet of the newly organized government. He was sworn in by President Quezon on December 24, 1941.
Two days after Abad Santos took his oath, as the Japanese troops were closing in on Manila, General Douglas MacArthur saw it fit to declare Manila an Open City in order to prevent the destruction of the capital by the Japanese forces. President Quezon, Vice-President Osmeña, Chief Justice Abad Santos, and other high officials evacuated Manila bound for Corregidor on the same day of Abad Santos’ assumption to office.
As the last bastions of defense in the Philippines, Bataan and Corregidor were continually bombed by the invading Japanese forces. The bombing of Corregidor started on December 30, 1941, and would continue for several months.
On February 2, 1942, General MacArthur proposed, to the embattled President Quezon to evacuate from Corregidor for the Visayas. Eighteen days later the President and members of his Cabinet, including Abad Santos headed south, but soon parted ways
Ramon C. Aquino who wrote a the biography of Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos narrates the events of his escape from Corregidor to his execution in the following excerpt:
EXODUS FROM CORREGIDOR
Although Corregidor had seemed impregnable, survival on the beleaguered island fortress became increasingly difficult after Manila fell. Enemy raiders gave the island’s defenders no respite. With Manila occupied and Bataan on the brink of capitulation, it became evident that Corregidor would not hold much longer. The further stay of President Quezon’s party in Corregidor had become untenable. General MacArthur therefore advised Quezon to leave for Australia.
The evacuation of the personnel of the civil government from Corregidor began on February 19 —incidentally the birthday of both Mrs. Quezon and Chief Justice Abad Santos. In the evening, after an austere and unostentatious celebration, the party broke up into two groups. One group, composed of Pepito, Lieutenant Francisco C. Delgado—the aide of General Basilio J. Valdes—Colonel Jaime Velasquez, Serapio Canceran, Drs. Trepp, Diño, and Cruz, a nurse and a masseur, and Don Andres Soriano took the SS Don Esteban, which set sail under cover of darkness for San Jose, Antique. Also on the vessel were the funds of the Philippine government, which were being moved to the southern islands. Colonel Velasquez had been assigned by the president to guard these funds. Part of this money was later burned and part was given to the provincial governments of Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, and Cebu. These Visayan islands were not yet occupied by the enemy.
The next day, February 20, President Quezon’s group, which included his family, Chief Justice Abad Santos, Vice-President Osmeña, General Valdes, Manuel Nieto, and Father Ortiz, boarded the sub-marine Swordfish. San Josem, Antique, was their destination. The sub-marine left Corregidor “when the moon had set” and while the Japanese were bombarding the island fortress from Cavite. Throughout the trip, Abad Santos was deeply concerned over the plight of his family in Manila.
The Swordfish unloaded its distinguished passengers at San Jose de Buenavista, in Antique, at 2:40 A.M. on February 22. On the other hand, the SS Don Esteban, traveling only at night and hiding in the coves by day to avoid detection by enemy planes, reached San Jose de Buena-vista an hour later. From San Jose, President Quezon traveled to Iloilo City by land. Abad Santos and Osmeña boarded the SS Don Esteban and proceeded to Iloilo City, arriving there at ten o’clock on the night of February 22.”
The party did not stay long in Iloilo City. After getting fresh supplies of clothes from the Army stores there, the group left Iloilo for Bacolod City on the MV Princess of Negros in the early morning of February 23. The boat docked at Bacolod City after a two-hour trip.
Abad Santos and Pepito were lodged in the house of Dr. Antonio A. Lizares, the provincial governor, in Talisay. Dr. Lizares gave Abad Santos his own room and his family stayed at the family hacienda. President Quezon and his party preferred the accommodations at the bachelor’s quarters of the Warner, Barnes & Co., Ltd., at Bacolod City. According to Governor Lizares, Abad Santos wore a plain khaki uniform with no insignias.
During the weeks that followed, the leaders of the party made inspection tours of the province in separate groups. At one time, Quezon and Abad Santos conferred in Buenos Aires, Negros Occidental, on matters of state.
Their last conference was in Bais, Negros Oriental. Quezon, who had been advised by General MacArthur to follow him to Australia and establish a government-in-exile in the United States, invited Abad Santos to go with him. Abad Santos’ crucial choice was to remain in the Philippines if President Quezon had no objection. Abad Santos was reported to have said: “If you will excuse me, Mr. President, I prefer to remain, carry on my work here, and stay with my family.”
He confided to his son that if and when they should be able to return to Manila, he would retire into private life and live with his family on the farm.
President Quezon then directed Abad Santos to proceed to Cebu and inspect other unoccupied areas like Panay, Leyte, and Mindanao. According to Lieutenant Delgado, Abad Santos’s mission was to supervise the civil governments in these unoccupied areas, help them cope with the emergency, and secure close cooperation between the civil authorities and the USAFFE. President Quezon gave him vast governmental powers in the unoccupied areas, making him the president’s “delegate” and the virtual head of the Commonwealth Government in the Philippines. The letter-authority to this effect signed by Quezon reads as follows:
March 17, 1942
My dear Chief Justice Abad Santos:
In addition to your duties as Chief Justice and Acting Secretary of Finance, Agriculture, and Commerce, I hereby designate you as my delegate with power to act on all matters which involve no change in the fundamental policies of my administration of which you are quite familiar. Where circumstances are such as to preclude consultation with me, you may act on urgent questions of local administration without my previous approval. In such cases, you are to use your own best judgment and sound discretion.
With reference to the government-owned corporations, you are also authorized to take such steps as will protect the interests of the government either by continuing, curtailing, or terminating their operations as circumstances may Warrant.
(Sgd.) Manuel L. Quezon
Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos
As noted by Justice George A. Malcolm, “Abad Santos in effect became acting president of the Commonwealth” of the Philippines.53
Roxas erroneously believed that Quezon merely entrusted to Abad Santos the power of supervision and control over the courts of justice in all the unoccupied areas. The late Justice Manuel Briones, on the other hand, held the view that Quezon left Abad Santos in the Philip-pines as his representative in the territory not occupied by the Japanese. Briones’s view would seem to be the correct one, for Quezon’s letter explicitly designated Abad Santos as his “delegate.” Abad Santos did not need Quezon’s authority to supervise the courts since this was provided for in Executive Order no. 396 reorganizing the executive departments and placing the courts under the chief justice of the Supreme Court. In 1942 Abad Santos held the positions of chief justice and secretary of finance, agriculture, and commerce. Moreover, as pointed out by Pepito, there were no more courts to be supervised since the judges and judiciary personnel had fled to evacuation places.
The truth of the matter is that Roxas had been appointed by President Quezon in Corregidor as executive secretary of the president, with the power to act in his name on all matters not involving a change in policy. In fact, Quezon had left instructions that if both he and Osmeña should be killed or captured, Roxas should take over the presidency.37 Quezon writes in his autobiography:
When I was preparing to leave Corregidor, my first intention was to take along with me Colonel Manuel Roxas, but he felt —and rightly—that someone had to remain there to maintain the morale of the Filipino troops. When I left Corregidor I conferred on him the powers of Executive Secretary of the President.
While I was in Negros, when the infiltration of the Japanese forces began and prudence counseled the selection of the person who would succeed to the Presidency of the country in case something should happen to me and to Vice-President Osmeña, I selected, under the powers granted to me under the Constitution, Colonel Roxas as our successor and issued the following Executive Order:
Whereas the danger of the President of the Philippines being either killed or captured by the enemy is always present; and
Whereas, public interest demands that the succession to the Presidency be provided for so that at no time may the country find itself without a lawful head of the Government of the Commonwealth.
That in case I or Vice-President Osmeña should be unable to per-form these duties, the Secretary to the President should become the President.
Having notified President Roosevelt of this arrangement, I received a reply approving the action.
President Quezon also extended to his godson, Lieutenant Delgado, an invitation to evacuate to Australia with him, but the newly-married young officer chose to remain in the Philippines. President and Mrs. Quezon had been the sponsors at Delgado’s wedding. Having elected to stay behind, Delgado was appointed by President Quezon as aide-de-camp and secretary to Chief Justice Abad Santos and disbursing officer.
Abad Santos bade good-bye to President and Mrs. Quezon at Zamboangita Point, Oriental Negros, in March 1942. Mrs. Quezon solicitously reminded Abad Santos to take good care of his health. On March 25 or 26, 1942, President Quezon and his party were flown by B-17 bombers from the Del Monte Airfield in Cagayan de Oro to Australia.
Abad Santos then returned to Bacolod City. He rested a week in the home of Don Emiliano Lizares, after which he resumed work. It may have been during this interval that he and Justice Emilio Hilado met in Bacolod. Justice Hilado observed that Abad Santos was solemn and grave during their meeting:
I had the good fortune to see him [Abad Santos] in Bacolod City at the old Governor’s Mansion House on J. Araneta Street. We had some brief moments of conversation, marked by solemnity and gravity, both of us being already conscious of the desperate plight of our country. But he preserved his characteristic calmness and serenity, and beneath the softness of his demeanor with which I had been so familiar was that unquenchable spirit of patriotism that was his property shared with the Rizals, the Aguinaldos, the Del Pilars, and others already known to you.
On Good Friday, April 3, 1942, Abad Santos and Roxas met in Bacolod City. Roxas transmitted to him the last instructions of President Quezon and sought his advice on important problems of government which required immediate attention. They then traveled together by car from Bacolod to Dumaguete where Roxas was to take a plane for Mindanao. Their last meeting was at Dumaguete on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1942.
Roxas invited Abad Santos to go with him to Mindanao, but characteristically Abad Santos declined to go. He told Roxas that he in-tended to go to Cebu instead. He was also anxious for news about his family.
When Roxas warned him that he might be captured and killed by the Japanese, Abad Santos remarked: “If such is my fate, I am ready to meet it; but in the meantime, I shall continue discharging the duties which the president has vested on me.”
CAPTURE IN CEBU
Abad Santos stayed two days in Dumaguete after Roxas departed for Mindanao. He contacted the civilian officials of the province and the military authorities in charge of the defenses of the area against the Japanese. Then he took a ferry-boat for Cebu. According to the late Justice Manuel Briones, Abad Santos went to Cebu to supervise the civil government in that area and adopt measures and dispositions to repel the impending Japanese invasion of the island. Thus father and son began their painful ordeal, with its harrowing episodes, culminating in Abad Santos’s martyrdom. Twenty-five days after he arrived in Cebu, Abad Santos was to die by Japanese musketry.
Abad Santos arrived in Cebu City on or about April 7. With him were his son Pepito, Colonel Benito D. Valeriano—head of the Constabulary in the Visayas-Lieutenant Delgado, and Manuel del Rosario son-in-law of Don Emiliano Lizares, Abad Santos’s hospitable host in Bacolod City. Colonel Valeriano served as liaison officer between the Commonwealth government, of which Abad Santos was the acting head, and the USAFFE. He was in constant communication with the Army and kept Abad Santos informed about the movements of the armed forces.
Abad Santos conferred with the USAFFE officers in charge of the forces in Cebu as well as with the officials of the civil government on that island. Delgado recounts that during these inspection trips on the island, Abad Santos, as acting president of the Philippines, used a black Buick bearing a no. 1 plate and flying the Philippine flag.
During the first three days of his arrival in Cebu, Abad Santos occupied a private house near the provincial hospital in Cebu City.
Cast by the accidents of war into the intimate company of the chief justice, the young Lt. Delgado had ample opportunity to observe the former at close range. According to Delgado, Abad Santos was a very lonely man in those days. His main desire was to get back to his family in Manila. Delgado observed that there was nothing of the soldier in the frail and quiet chief justice. He could not accustom himself to the hard-ship brought by the war. He was completely “civilian” in appearance as in outlook. Even in those unsettled times, he always wore a coat and tie. Although he had become the repository of the highest civilian authority, his manner and bearing were far from authoritarian.
He often conversed with his youthful aide in Spanish. Pondering the war and its concomitant horrors, Abad Santos would sadly shake his head and remark: “La guerra es muy dificil.”
When Lt. Delgado asked him what he would do if the enemy should come, Abad Santos replied that he would surrender. Like Quezon, he strongly believed that continued resistance against the superior forces of the enemy was a futile sacrifice of Filipino lives. But, Abad Santos apparently had a well-defined concept of the meaning of surrender as distinguished from collaboration. He was willing to surrender, as befitted the vanquished, but he would never collaborate.
On April 10, 1942, the news of the fall of Bataan came over the radio. Visibly saddened, Abad Santos listened to the catastrophic announcement.
For security reasons, Abad Santos was advised by the American commander of the USAFFE forces in Cebu to evacuate Cebu City. It was anticipated that Cebu would be the next objective of the enemy. The city was defenseless. Like Manila, it had been declared an open city.
Following the American commander’s advice, Abad Santos, accompanied by his son and Lieutenant Delgado, moved to the offices of the Cebu Portland Cement Company in Naga, about thirty kilometres south of Cebu City, on the afternoon of April 10, 1942. Colonel Valeriano remained at the army headquarters in Cebu City.
The Abad Santos party slept in the company guest house, occupying separate rooms. Their food was prepared for them by army personnel It was to be their first and last night in Naga.
On April 10, 1942, the Japanese forces landed on the eastern coast of Cebu thirty kilometres south of Naga. The USAFFE forces under General Chynoweth retired to Camp 7 above Cebu City. After landing, the Japanese moved inland along the Toledo-Cebu road toward Camp 7. The next day, April 11, the Japanese landed more forces at Cebu City, Toledo, Argao, Pimamungajan, Naga, and Talisay.
An hour after midnight—by then April 11, 1942, Ascencion Day—Delgado was awakened by the insistent ringing of the telephone in the guest house. The American Commander in Cebu City was at the other end of the line. He told Delgado that the Japanese were bombing Cebu City and preparing to land at several points on the island— at Cebu City itself and at Barili and Argao, below Carcar. “Please advise Chief Justice Abad Santos to evacuate up north toward Toledo,” the American officer urged.
Delgado immediately woke up Chief Justice Abad Santos to break the news to him. Surprised by the inauspiciousness of the hour (1:00 A.M.) and unaware of the gravity of the danger facing them, Abad Santos hastily complained with an oath: “__________! Muy temprano!”
He asked Delgado to watch for further developments and went back to sleep.47
Delgado did not go to sleep. He sat up, watchful as the night became alive with the noise of people and vehicles on the road scurrying to places of safety.
At four o’clock in the morning, the American commander was on the phone again. His message was urgent: “It is imperative that Chief Justice Abad Santos evacuate Naga immediately since the Japanese have landed in Cebu City.”
Delgado woke up Abad Santos again and relayed the message from Cebu City. Abad Santos directed him to fetch Colonel Valeriano in the city “so that when you get back we can all evacuate together,” he said.
Aware that it would be hard to hide from the Japanese on the narrow island of Cebu, Abad Santos intended to go to Toledo and take a ferryboat there for Negros. He did not know that the Japanese forces had landed at Toledo too.
He advised Delgado to use the presidential car so that he would not be stopped on his way to the city. Delgado did as ordered. He failed to return to Naga, however. Even as he was speeding to the city, the USAFFE forces were poised to blast the bridges on the way. His car was the last vehicle to cross one of the bridges before it was blown up. Delgado recalls that he himself did not fully realize how great the danger was until he saw the bridges being blasted behind him. His return route to Naga had been sealed. There was no turning back for him.
When Delgado reached Cebu City, he proceeded to the USAFFE headquarters in search of Valeriano but could not find him. Someone told him that Valeriano had gone to Naga to help Abad Santos escape. Delgado tried to phone Abad Santos in Naga, using a telephone at the headquarters, but the connection had been cut. It was 8:00 A.M. It was at that hour when, according to Pepito, he and his father were captured by the Japanese in Barrio Tubod, in Barili.
One of the published accounts of Abad Santos’s last days in Cebu states that he sent Delgado to Cebu City to fetch Manuel del Rosario, who was with some relatives in the city. But this account is discredited by Delgado himself. He stated that the purpose of his hurried trip to Cebu City on the morning of the Japanese invasion was to contact Valeriano. However, he confirmed that Manuel del Rosario had gone to Cebu with the chief justice.
Parenthetically, it may be mentioned that Delgado succeeded in escaping to Negros by sailboat from Toledo two days later. He found Del Rosario in Bacolod City. Some months later by hopping from island to island in the company of a fisherman on a small sailboat, he got to Luzon and rejoined his family in Manila. He was repeatedly investigated by the Japanese concerning the whereabouts of the money of the Commonwealth but he said they did not torture him. They only asked him to submit to daily indoctrination classes at a Japanese school on Azcarraga (now Claro M. Recto) Street.
Back in Naga, Colonel Valeriano rejoined Abad Santos. The invasion generated so much panic and confusion among the people and the armed forces that Colonel Valeriano himself was misinformed about the location of the enemy. He thought that the Japanese had landed at the northernmost and southernmost tips of the island of Cebu. He was not informed about the landings in western Cebu.
From Naga Abad Santos and his companions could see the Japanese ships steaming in the distance along Bohol Strait. With horror they watched Japanese bomber squadrons make repeated forays over the city. They saw black columns of smoke rising from oil depots in Cebu City and on Mactan Island which they assumed the USAFFE forces had put to the torch. As explosions rent the morning air, they surmised that these must be enemy bombs ot the work of the demolition teams of the USAFFE.
As Delgado had not returned and believing that it would be both futile and risky to wait for him any longer, Abad Santos decided to leave for Toledo at once. He was confident that the Japanese were far north and south and that he could reach Carcar town before the Japanese got there. With Pepito, Colonel Valeriano, and two enlisted men, Abad Santos boarded a Constabulary command car and drove south for the Carcar-Barili highway. This proved to be a tragic miscalculation.
At barrio Mantalongon, Barili, where Representative Maximo Noel had a country home, the group stopped for information. Noel told them about a report that the Japanese had landed in Barili and were proceeding to Carcar. He strongly advised them against going any farther lest they should encounter the enemy on the road.
Either because Valeriano did not believe Noel’s report or because turning back was out of the question anyway, the group decided to continue on their way. As Noel had feared, Abad Santos and his companions met and were captured by the Japanese advancing on the road in barrio Tubod, Barili, at eight o’clock on the morning of April 11, 1942.
According to Manuel A. Roxas, when he learned of the Cebu landing, he radioed General Wainwright on Corregidor requesting that a plane be sent to Cebu to evacuate Abad Santos. Wainwright promised that everything would be done to evacuate Abad Santos. Quezon also expressed concern over the fate of the chief justice.
Abad Santos and his companions were divested of their car by the Japanese and placed on a truck with soldiers. Sporadic skirmishes with Filipino forces along the way slightly delayed the enemy’s advance. They arrived in Cebu City at seven o’clock in the evening.
During the trek to the city, Pepito had his first bitter taste of Japanese cruelty to prisoners. The tired troops and their exhausted captives had paused to rest on the roadside. Taking advantage of this brief respite, Pepito plucked a coconut for his father to drink. Seeing him do so, a Japanese soldier yelled at him and slapped him on the face.
But not all the Japanese soldiers they encountered during their captivity were barbarous. In Cebu City, Abad Santos and Pepito were befriended by a young Japanese officer named Captain Watanabe. Father and son at first distrusted Watanabe, suspicious that his friendliness was a ruse to gain their confidence. Watanabe showed them a rosary to prove that he was a Christian.
From the beginning, Watanabe treated Abad Santos with kindness and respect. He asked both Abad Santos and his son to pose with him for a picture in front of a house in Cebu City. When he visited them again a few days later, he showed Abad Santos a copy of the picture. He revealed that he was soon leaving for Manila and that he intended to give the picture to Mrs. Abad Santos as a memento. He offered to transmit a letter from Abad Santos to his family in the city. To prove his sincerity and good faith, he allowed Abad Santos to write his letter in Pampango. Translated into English, the letter, Abad Santos’s last note to his wife, read:
Cebu, April 16, 1942
My dear Mandang:
The bearer of this letter is Captain Watanabe whom Pepito and I met here in Cebu. He has shown us kind treatment. All is well with us here, and do not worry about us. I hope we shall soon see each other there. This is all, and may this letter find you all well.
He who dearly loves you,
As the Japanese officer left them, Abad Santos and his son wondered if he would indeed deliver the letter and picture to Mrs. Abad Santos. He did. When Pepito was returned to his family, months later, he asked his mother about them. She showed him the last picture of his father. Through the war, his mother had kept it close to her heart. She held on to it through all adversities. She carried it with her when she and her family fled on foot from the enemy from Baguio to Agoo, La Union.
ABAD SANTOS’S CHOICE
Abad Santos and Pepito were taken to the Basak Elementary School, in San Nicolas town. The school had been an internment camp for Japanese civilians but was then a detention camp for Filipino war prisoners.
There were no beds for the prisoners in the camp. As Abad Santos was about to lie down on the floor, Sergeant Guarino Espina, who was lying on the only cot in the room, offered it to him. The latter politely declined the offer. He insisted on lying down on the bare floor.
On April 12 the Japanese removed Abad Santos from the Basak Elementary School. As he was leaving the school, he said in Tagalog to the Filipino war prisoners there: “Remember, boys, never join the enemy. America and God are with us. The Japanese are here only on borrowed time. We will rise again.” After saying these parting words, he was pushed out of the building by his guards.
With his son and Colonel Valeriano, Abad Santos was taken to the Cebu City capitol building. There they were left alone inside a small room for a while. To Pepito Abad Santos passed important official papers which the Japanese had not discovered up to that time. Pepito tore up the most important documents into little bits and then swallowed them. “There was no other way to destroy them right away except by swallowing them,” Pepito said, “I tore them to small pieces and crammed them into my mouth. It seems an impossible feat to do, when you come to think of it now, but during those hectic and dangerous days, one was capable of doing the most extraordinary things.” He hid the less important papers under some bundles and stacks of old government records which lay then scattered in a corner of the room.
From the capitol building, Abad Santos and his companions were conducted to a nearby house which was to serve as their quarters. Every day after that, Abad Santos and Valeriano were subjected to intensive interrogation at forty-minute intervals.62 Valeriano was slapped and kicked during these sessions. After a couple of days, Valeriano was ordered to pick up his things and was led away.
Colonel Valeriano’s fate is shown in his army record cited by Captain Ricardo Macairog, assistant adjutant general.
We wish to inform you that according to the records of the late Colonel Benito D. Valeriano, he was captured by the Japanese forces on April 10 [April 11,], 1942 and was confined as a detainee at Cebu City. On or about May 18, 1942, he and others were sent by the Japanese as emissaries to Negros to negotiate [for] the surrender of USAFFE men in that sector who refused to heed the general order of surrender issued by General Wainwright. On May 22, 1942, subject officer and his companions were murdered at Negros. In the course of the interrogations, Abad Santos identified himself as the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Several days passed before the Japanese discovered that he was actually the head of the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines or, as Justices Manuel Briones and Alfonso Felix put it, that he was President Quezon’s representative in the territory not occupied by the Japanese.
Major General Kiyotake Kawaguchi, commander of the Japanese forces that took Cebu, and Colonel Kawakami, chief of the military ad-ministration in that province, took turns in interrogating Abad Santos. Having ascertained who he was, they wanted him to contact Roxas in Mindanao and to induce Roxas to surrender.65 He was also asked to take the oath of allegiance to Japan or to renounce his allegiance to the United States and the Commonwealth Government. He was offered a position in the puppet government, which he declined. They might have also asked him to reveal his instructions from President Quezon and to surrender the official papers in his custody which his son had destroyed. He firmly refused to comply with these demands of the Japanese. He was reported to have said: “I cannot possibly do that because if I do so, I would be violating my oath of allegiance to the United States.” According to another version, his answer was: “I cannot accede to the things you ask me. To obey your commands is tantamount to being a traitor to the United States and my country. I would prefer to die rather than live in shame.”
ORDER OF EXECUTION
The Japanese military administration in Manila under Major-General Yoshihide Hayashi was informed of Abad Santos’s refusal to cooperate with the Japanese.
It was most unfortunate that Abad Santos’s capture coincided with the visit of Field Marshal Sugiyama at the headquarters of the Japanese Army in Orani, Bataan. As chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sugiyama was the highest officer in the Japanese Army. Informed about Abad Santos’s intransigence, Sugiyama is said to have ordered Hayashi “to liquidate all leaders who were opposed to the Japanese military administration.”
Major General Takeji (Tokuji) Wachi, who was later to succeed Hayashi as director of the Japanese military administration in the Philippines, admitted at the war crimes trials that Sugiyama’s order included Abad Santos and Roxas. Wachi stated that the execution order reached him at his field headquarters in Bataan. He was then chief of staff of General Masaharu Homma’s Fourteenth Army. He approved the order, believing that the military administration officials would take up the case with General Homma as he knew that Homma had given Hayashi orders to “take care” of Abad Santos. The order contained an option for General Kawaguchi’s unit to bring Abad Santos to Manila in case it was impossible to execute him for important reasons. At Hayashi’s military administration headquarters, this part of the order was allegedly altered or deleted, and the execution order issued by Hayashi “was more of a personal note to Kawaguchi” directing that Abad Santos be shipped to Davao instead of to Manila.
In his own defense at the war crimes trial for the murder of Abad – Santos, Homma denied that he had been responsible for the hero’s execution. He testified that when informed of Abad Santos’s capture in Cebu, he warned General Hayashi, his deputy chief of staff and director general of the military administration in the Philippines, that nothing should happen to Abad Santos because he hoped that “he would take part in the administration of the Philippines.” He alleged that he was surprised and furious when he learned that Abad Santos had been executed. He claimed that Abad Santos had been killed by irresponsible subordinates.
But these allegations notwithstanding, the fact remains that the order for the execution of Abad Santos, issued by Hayashi, bore the seal of approval of Wachi, the chief of staff, and of Homma, the commanding general of the Japanese Army in the Philippines. It was duly transmitted to General Kawaguchi, commander of the Japanese forces in Cebu, who was at the time preparing his forces to land in Mindanao.
On April 15, 1942, Lieutenant Colonel Keisuke Inosuka, a staff officer under General Wachi, was sent to Cebu with instructions from General Hayashi to remind Kawaguchi to execute Abad Santos. According to Inosuka, Hayashi’s exact words were: “Please transmit to Kawaguchi [the order] to kill Abad Santos.” According to Inosuka, Kawaguchi looked “dissatisfied” to hear these orders.
At his trial for war crimes, General Kiyotake Kawaguchi claimed that the order for Abad Santos’s execution was beyond his power to stay. He pointed to General Hayashi as the man who had ordered the liquidation of Abad Santos. In turn Hayashi shifted the blame to Marshal Sugiyama, the overall commander of the Japanese forces in Southeast Asia.
In the meantime, back in Manila, Judge Salvador Abad Santos, younger brother of the jurist, had heard on the radio about his brother’s arrest in Cebu. He immediately sought Laurel, then commissioner of justice, and begged him to intercede for Abad Santos. Laurel promised to do so.
Some two weeks later, Laurel was invited to a party which General Homma gave at Manila Hotel. Laurel took advantage of the occasion to -talk with Homma on behalf of Abad Santos and Roxas, then also a prisoner-of-war in Mindanao. Laurel’s intercession came too late to save Jose Abad Santos. Homma told him: “We Japanese are bitter against Abad Santos.” Laurel informed Salvador Abad Santos that his brother’s death warrant had been signed by Homma.
Why did Homma decide to execute Abad Santos? President Roxas later said:
It is improbable that we will ever know what demands were made of him [Abad Santos] by the minions of the Japanese Imperial Army, nor the answer he gave to these demands. It is improbable that we will ever know the determining reason which moved the enemy to effect his execution contrary to the laws of war and the dictates of humanity.
The transcript of the investigation of Abad Santos in Cebu by Kawaguchi reveals that he had been charged with being a member of Quezon’s war cabinet, that he had ordered the burning of Cebu City, and that he had been responsible for the printing of emergency currency notes in the southern islands. These were the same reasons which Abad Santos told his son shortly before his death when the latter asked him why Kawaguchi had ordered his execution.
President Quezon’s impression was that Abad Santos was killed because he refused to undertake pro-Japanese propaganda. It is commonly held that the hero was liquidated for his refusal to take the oath of allegiance to Japan, to cooperate with the enemy, and to reveal the instructions President Quezon had given him.
According to Pepito, his father was offered a position in the Japanese-controlled government but he refused it since his acceptance would be a violation of his oath of allegiance to the United States.
It is probable that the Japanese wanted him to collaborate or win him over to their side but he refused to do so since that would have been dishonorable and treasonous. He knew that the Japanese had no legal or moral right to compel him to turn traitor to his own country. In executing him, the Japanese probably wanted to set him up as an example and thus intimidate the other Filipino leaders into submitting to their demands.
The Ministry Commission found Hayashi guilty of having ordered the execution of Abad Santos. Kawaguchi’s responsibility in carrying out the order of execution was mitigated by his plea of guilty and by his efforts to save Pepito.
On or about April 26, 1942, Abad Santos and Pepito were ordered to prepare for a journey. At ten o’clock at night they were required to board a Japanese transport. This development gladdened them because they thought they would be shipped to Manila. They were sadly disappointed to discover later that instead, their destination was Mindanao, the next objective of the Kawaguchi Unit. Aboard ship Kawaguchi renewed his overtures for Abad Santos to cooperate and persuade Roxas to surrender. Abad Santos remained adamant.
After a day and two nights at sea, Abad Santos and his son landed at dawn with the Japanese troops in Parang, in Northwest Cotabato. There was light resistance from the USAFFE forces ashore in Parang. In-side the landing craft, a Japanese officer shouted at Abad Santos to crouch low as a precaution against the bullets whistling overhead, but he refused to stoop. A Japanese soldier had to push his head down.
The Kawaguchi Unit remained in Parang only a day. The next morning, the troops moved overland to Malabang, Lanao, taking their prisoners with them. A token USAFFE resistance prevented them from reaching Malabang. The troops moved into the town proper the next day.
Abad Santos and Pepito stayed in a schoolhouse with the soldiers. Another school building nearby served as quarters and offices for General Kawaguchi and his staff. Abad Santos and Pepito stayed in that camp for two days.
On May 1, after a breakfast of dried fish and pan de sal, Keiji Fukui, a Japanese interpreter on Kawaguchi’s staff, came to fetch Abad Santos and his son. The general wanted them moved to a two-story wooden house near the northern edge of town. The house belonged to the chief of police of Malabang, but the Japanese had commandeered it for the use of the officers of the headquarters staff. As they walked across the town in the hot sun, they observed that all the houses were closed and shuttered except the few that the enemy were occupying. A few Japanese soldiers were walking leisurely about the town. There was a continuous traffic of military trucks and troops on the main road.
The house where Fukui took Abad Santos and his son was close to a river. Pepito was happy to see the river. “We can bathe today, Tatang,” he said. The Japanese soldier, however, warned them that, by order of his general, they were not to leave the house.
Another interpreter, Tamaki Aida, received them at their new quarters. They were told to put their things in a corner and then were left alone. For a while Abad Santos passed the time leafing through a Japanese magazine and school reading materials left in the room. The morning passed slowly and soon the increasing heat of the day lulled him to sleep. At midday the officers returned for lunch. Some of them stared curiously at their prisoners but did not speak to them. Aida arrived too and invited his charges to lunch. Orderlies from the camp kitchen brought in army trays, and lunch was quickly served.
Pepito was pleased to note that the officers’ mess was much better than what they had been served till then.
Abad Santos and his son ate their meal in silence and then returned to their comer.
“Don’t you find it strange,” Pepito asked his father, “that they have been moving us from house to house?”
“They have strange ways, and it is hard to understand them,” his father replied.
The next day was May 2, and after lunch Pepito saw Fukui coming up the road. The Japanese stopped in front of the house. “Santos,” he called.
Pepito nudged his father. Abad Santos looked out of the window.
“Please come down, Santos,” Fukui said.
Pepito asked to be taken along, but his father dissuaded him, saying that he would not be allowed to enter the general’s office. He assured Pepito that everything would be all right. “This is another of the inter-rogation sessions, and I shall be back shortly,” he said. Abad Santos evidently said this to spare his son from anxiety. But Abad Santos must have sensed that his end was at hand. He had expected it. He was prepared for the worst.
Escorted by Fukui, Abad Santos walked in the direction of the schoolhouse camp.
Testifying at the war crimes trial of Kawaguchi and Hayashi later, Fukui said Kawaguchi had instructed him to inform Abad Santos about the order of his execution. Fukui took Abad Santos before the general, who then told him: “From the commander-in-chief in Manila I received a third order to execute you. I have been trying to save you, but now I am forced to carry out the order from my superiors.”
Abad Santos, said Fukui, “was magnificently serene when he heard his death sentence.”
“All I need,” he said, “is ten minutes to talk to my son.”
After half an hour, Pepito saw his father walking back to the house with Fukui and a squad of Japanese soldiers. The group stopped in front of the house. His father called him to come down because he had something to tell him. Pepito recalls that painful and distressing incident in these words:
When I came down, I saw my father smiling. I thought he had good news to tell me. Then, all of a sudden, he simply said: “I am to be executed.” Upon hearing this, I burst into tears and wept unashamedly.
Abad Santos then told his son gently: “Do not cry, Pepito. Show these people that you are brave. It is a rare opportunity for me to die for our country. Not everybody is given that chance.”
“But why, Tatang, why?” Pepito asked.
Abad Santos told him that the Japanese believed that it was he who had ordered Cebu City put to the torch, that he had authorized the issuance of emergency notes, and that he had been uncooperative because of his refusal to broadcast to General Roxas.
Fukui advised both Abad Santos and his son to go to a dilapidated hut across the street so that they could be alone for a few minutes. Pepito begged Fukui, the civilian interpreter, that he be allowed to see General Kawaguchi to plead for his father’s life. But Abad Santos would not countenance such a step. “It will be futile,” he said. “The order of execution was given a long time ago.”
Father and son then entered the empty shack. In the small veranda of the dilapidated dwelling, they knelt and softly recited the act of contrition, a Catholic ritual, together.
Then Abad Santos told Pepito: “Tell your mother, brother, and sisters not to grieve over my passing. Tell them that we shall be together again in the next life. From your strength, let them draw theirs. Teach them to be brave.”
Fukui approached them and told Abad Santos that it was time to go. Father and son walked toward the waiting soldiers. Abad Santos embraced his son and kissed him on the forehead. “Take good care of your mother, your brother, and sisters,” he repeated. “Tell them to live up to our name. God bless you, my son.”
Then Abad Santos nodded to Fukui. The Japanese interpreter took his place beside Abad Santos. The soldiers lined up on both sides of them. A soldier named Aida came and stood beside Pepito as the group marched off on the road out of Malabang.
Abad Santos had his soiled white suit on. He did not look back. Ac-cording to Fukui, “He walked to the execution ground with absolute tranquillity.” Behind a coconut grove at a turn of the road, Abad Santos disappeared with his executioners. He was shot under a tall coconut tree near a river bank.
Pepito took out an old prayer book from his pocket. With trembling hands he turned the yellow pages to the prayers for the dead. Even as he was reading them, he heard a distant volley. He burst into tears when he heard the shots. He kept praying for his father until his tears ran dry.
During the twenty-one day period, Father and son suffered terrible anxiety and mental anguish. The trials which they endured while awaiting their fate were heart-breaking. Words cannot describe the sorrow of the father separated from his son because he was to be killed in a lonely spot and the agony of the son upon losing his beloved father.
Later in the afternoon, the two Japanese interpreters took Pepito to his father’s grave. They brought hibiscus flowers and placed them on the grave. “Your father died a glorious death,” one of them said. “There your father lies,” the other said. “He died a hero’s death.” They showed Pepito his father’s grave. It was a small mound—too small, Pepito thought, to hold his father’s remains if properly buried. On top of the grave lay a rock as large as a coconut. Pepito asked that he be allowed to mark the grave with a cross, but his request was denied.
Pepito believes that the Japanese dismembered his father’s body to make it fit into the small grave they had dug for it. He also believes that the grave was not deep enough and he fears that animals might have disturbed it later. An intensive search for the place where the hero was executed failed to yield his mortal remains after the war. Pepito did not find the hut and the trees which were to serve as points of reference in locating the grave. The area where the execution took place had been plowed and planted to root crops.
At the headquarters, where Fukui took Pepito after the execution, General Kawaguchi remarked: “Don’t you think that Santos was a truly great man?” According to Fukui, Abad Santos had refused to be blind-folded. He did not accept the cigarette offered to him by a member of the firing squad. Kawaguchi asked Pepito not to have any ill-feeling toward him because he had merely obeyed the orders of his superiors.
At first it was thought that Abad Santos had been killed on May 7, 1942. This was the date given by Pepito himself during his testimony at the trial of Generals Hayashi and Kawaguchi. But on the basis of Fukui’s testimony supported by notations in his diary, the date of Abad Santos’s execution was definitely ascertained to be at two o’clock on the afternoon of May 2, 1942.
The Japanese invaders trampled on our shores. The tyrants’ might held in thrall this “land of the morning, child of the sun returning.” It was inevitable that the critical circumstances of the war would furnish the occasion for both heroism and treason. The war produced ignoble and pusillanimous traitors. But it also produced intrepid heroes. Our beautiful land is not without reason called the “cradle of noble heroes.”
Jose Abad Santos did not waver when he faced the firing squad. Com-posed and unafraid, he gave his life so that we the living might “behold the radiance and feel the throb of glorious liberty.” He fulfilled the Words of our national anthem:
Beautiful land of love,
O land of light,
In thine embrace ’tis rapture to lie.
But it is glory ever, when thou art wronged,
For us thy sons to suffer and die.
Like Rizal, Jose Abad Santos made the supreme sacrifice. It is not surprising that he would duplicate Rizal’s heroism. He completely understood the significance of Jose Rizal’s life and death, as may be seen from his speech on Rizal’s sixty-ninth birthday, a portion of which went as follows:
The life of Rizal stands on an eminence as a sublime example of civic morality and true patriotism. He ever held his country’s cause sacred and never allowed any selfish or partisan consideration to thwart his efforts in his country’s behalf. He placed the idea of country above the idea of self. And when the supreme moment came, he cheerfully gave up his life that his country might live. “Gladly,” he said, “now I go to give thee this faded life’s best; And, were it brighter, fresher, or more blest, still would I give it thee nor count the cost.”
Rizal was not born to die. The ideals and principles for which he fought and to which he devoutly dedicated his life will not perish. His benign spirit will forever live in the hearts of a grateful people.
Abad Santos epitomized his own life with some prescience when he made the foregoing commentary on the life of Rizal. Like Rizal he met a cruel death and like the martyr of Bagumbayan he has been resurrected in the hearts of his countrymen.
Chief Justice Abad Santos is survived by Amanda Teopaco, his widow, and their five children—Luz, Amanda, Victoria, Osmundo, and Pepito. The widow lives a quiet, unostentatius life at 25 Mariposa Street, Quezon City (formerly San Juan, in Rizal), on the three-hectare lot bought by the spouses before the war. Living with her in the house are Pepito and his own wife and children. Right across the street is the residence of Dean and Mrs. Conrado Benitez, close friends of Jose Abad Santos and his family.
To complete our account, it is necessary to recount the sequel to the painful experiences of Jose Abad Santos, Jr. The enemy had mercifully spared him. After his father’s execution, Pepito was told that he was free and could go anywhere he wished. He was asked where he planned to go.
When he confided to Aida and Fukui that he intended to go to Davao City and from there take a boat to Manila, he was warned that he could not as yet go to Manila.
Apprised of Pepito’s plan, Kawaguchi decided to keep him longer. When the Kawaguchi Unit moved to Cagayan de Oro, they took Pepito along.
At Cagayan de Oro Pepito was told that he would be sent to Tokyo to study. He did not like the idea. After two nights in Cagayan de Oro, he was placed on a Japanese ship bound for Manila. Kawaguchi was on the same vessel. He was going to report to Hayashi that the latter’s orders for the execution of Abad Santos had been carried out.
Upon arrival in Manila, Pepito was whisked to the Manila Hotel and there held incommunicado. He was not allowed to visit his family nor to let them know that he was in the city. He was never left alone. Aida and Fukui were his constant companions and guards.
Fearful that he would soon be sent to Tokyo, Pepito went on a hunger strike. He intended to force the Japanese to send him home to his mother. But this did not work. Kawaguchi summoned him to his suite told him that he should have no ill feeling toward him because he had not been responsible for his father’s execution. Kawaguchi explained that he had merely obeyed orders from Tokyo. He also admonished Pepito that it would he foolish of him to go on a hunger strike and that he would meet the same fate as his father if he persisted in doing so.
Fearful that he would soon be sent to Tokyo, Pepito went on a hunger strike. He intended to force the Japanese to send him home to his mother. But this did not work. Kawaguchi summoned him to his suite told him that he should have no ill feeling toward him because he had not been responsible for his father’s execution. Kawaguchi explained that he had merely obeyed orders from Tokyo. He also admonished Pepito that it would he foolish of him to go on a hunger strike and that he would meet the same fate as his father if he persisted in doing so.
A Japanese plane flew Pepito from the Nielson Airport, in Makati, Rizal, to Taiwan. After a week in Taiwan, he was flown to Tokyo. Fukui accompanied him on this trip.
Pepito was lodged at the Kojusai Gakkuyu Kai Kan (International Friendship House). There he met Burmese, Annamese, Thai, Indonesian, Malayan, German, and French boys and later some Filipinos. He was enrolled at the Kokusai Gakkuyu Kai language school (formerly the American School) in Tokyo. But he was not a pensionado as has been erroneously assumed. The Japanese government did not pay his expenses. It was his father’s own money that paid for his support and maintenance in Tokyo.
When Pepito’s father was captured, he had in his possession P30,000 in cash, representing his advance salary which President Quezon had authorized to be paid to all government employees and officials at the outbreak of the war. Half of the amount was turned over to Mrs. Abad Santos and half was retained by the Japanese for Pepito’s expenses in Japan. From this fund, he received a monthly allowance of a hundred yen.
As the “senior” Filipino student in Japan, Pepito was often assigned the unwelcome role of spokesman for his countrymen. He did not relish this job. Relief came in 1943 in the person of Secretary Jorge B. Vargas who arrived in Tokyo as the Philippine ambassador to Japan. Looking for an excuse to leave the Kokusai Gakkuyu Kai School, Pepito asked Vargas to give him work in the Philippine embassy. Vargas took him in as his personal secretary and interpreter since Pepito had learned Japanese.
In 1944 Vargas flew to Manila on the plane Kalayaan which the Japanese had presented as a gift to the Philippine government. He took Pepito with him. After such a long separation, Pepito rejoined his family. He was with his mother, brothers, and sisters for a month. During that time he regularly reported at the Japanese embassy in Manila because he was still technically a war prisoner.
Vargas returned to Tokyo after a month. Pepito did not want to go back. The Japanese authorities would not let him remain in Manila unless he agreed to work at the Japanese embassy there. Rather than accept this condition, he chose to return to Tokyo with Vargas. He was in Tokyo when the Japanese capitulated to the Allies in August 1945 and General Douglas Mac Arthur’s forces occupied the country. Pepito lost no time in reporting this plight to MacArthur’s headquarters. President Sergio Osmeña had asked General MacArthur, as supreme commander of Allied Powers (SCAP), to look for Pepito. MacArthur’s letter to Mrs. Abad Santos on the matter went as follows:
8 October 1945
Dear Mrs. Santos:
Through President Osmeña an inquiry has come to me concerning your son, Jose, Jr., who was flown from Mindanao to Tokyo by the Japanese. I am happy to inform you that your son has been found in Japan and sent to Manila by air transportation. He is in excellent health.
May I extend to you my deepest sympathy in the tragic loss of your illustrious husband, Chief Justice Abad Santos.
Mrs. Jose Abad Santos
Mariposa Street, San Juan, Rizal
Pepito was given his liberty together with other Allied war prisoners such as Dutch, Danish, American, etc., and he was repatriated to the Philippines. Thus he was finally reunited with his family.
HOW HOMMA CAME TO BE CHARGED WITH THE EXECUTION OF ABAD SANTOS
As a footnote to the foregoing, the role of former Justice and Solicitor General Manuel Lim in the prosecution of General Masaharu Homma for the death of Abad Santos should be recounted. Colonel Lim had been recalled to active duty in the Philippine Army after the liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese. He was appointed chief of the Philippine War Crimes Commission with the task of bringing to justice the Japanese military officers who had committed abuses during the occupation. Assigned to the prosecution section of the War Crimes Branch of the SCAP (supreme commander of Allied Forces in the Pacific), Lim was appointed special prosecutor of General Homma.
Lim examined the charges against Homma dated November 4, 1945, containing forty-two specifications. He was surprised to find that no reference was made there to the case of Jose Abad Santos whose execution was perhaps the most heinous crime committed by the enemy in the Philippines.
Lim’s perusal of the voluminous war records containing the statements given by persons from all sectors of the Philippine population revealed nothing about the Jose Abad Santos case. No one in the American personnel of the War Crimes Prosecution Section seemed have even heard of Jose Abad Santos.
Lim brought the matter to the attention of General MacArthur, who forthwith gave him full authority to conduct an investigation and gather the necessary information on the case. Toward this end, five mixed teams from the SCAP War Crimes Investigation Section were created. Three United States military planes, two military ships, and a fleet of jeeps and other military transportation were mobilized for the purpose.
The whole effort involved about 100 military personnel and included special trips to Sugamo Prison, in Japan, for interviews with persons who could shed light on the case.
On December 4, 1945, four days prior to Homma’s formal arraignment before the Military Commission in Manila, General MacArthur authorized the inclusion of Specification no. 45 in the charges against Homma. It read:
45. On or about 7 May 1942, at Malabang, Lanao, Mindanao, Philippines, General Masaharu Homma did execute Jose Abad Santos, a civilian from Pampanga, then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines.
On January 17, 1946, Homma’s trial began at the Embassy Hall of the United States Embassy Building on Dewey Boulevard. Less than a month later, on February 11, 1946, he was found guilty and sentenced to death by musketry. He was executed on April 3, 1946.
Aquino, Ramon C. “Last Days.” Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, 1886-1942: A Biography. Quezon City: Phoenix Pub. House, 1985. 191 – 240