The Blood and Mud in the Philippines: Anti-Guerrilla Warfare on Panay Island
Continuation of Chapter 11
As the court procedure thus advanced, and while the prosecution witness tried to drive the prey to bay on false testimonies, the accused also tried to break loose through fictions. Both the Prosecution and the Defense competed with fabrications. The prosecutor again summoned the Master Sergeant of the guerrilla regiment as witness and confirmed his testimony on the alleged crimes.
The defense lawyer was given a chance for final questions. Simon asked him all sorts of questions trying to overturn false statements that the witness had given. But the witness must have been an old hand in such circumstances, and he went on replying with ease. After this, the prosecutor asked him questions in the manner of attacking a routed enemy. The questions were so leading, such that every word of the witness would confirm that I was guilty. Towards noon, the Presiding Judge Ottoman again asked defense lawyer Simon for confirmation, ‘Do you have any more questions?’ Lawyer Simon silently considered the question for some time and eventually replied, ‘I have one.’ He stood up determinedly with a serious expression on his face and asked the witness, ‘Tell the court the situation of the time when Shimoji stabbed the Filipino with a binangon.’ With a smile on his lips, the witness confidently replied, ‘Shimoji plunged the binangon into the chest of the Filipino. The blade of the binangon stuck out of his back two inches long, and he fell straight down painfully groaning.’ Simon said ‘No more questions.’ Then he quickly seated himself. A momentary expression of shock appeared on the face of the prosecutor. The interpreter nearby whispered to me, ‘The falsity of the witness’ testimony seems to have come out.’ With that, the morning court adjourned.
The Final Pleading was held in the afternoon. First, defense lawyer Simon stood up and argued as follows: ‘As for the first and second counts, the testimony given by the witness is clearly false. As the honorable Presiding Judge with his long military experience might know well, it is difficult even for an experienced soldier to stab a man in the chest so deeply that the blade got through two inches out into the other side. For a civilian, Shimoji, it is impossible to stab a binangon through the victim’s body and get the blade to stick out two inches in the back. Therefore, the evidence is clearly proved false. Besides, the witness says the victim was groaning. Then it is a case of injury. The wounded man might have been cured later. It is wrong to have prosecuted the accused with homicide. Obviously, the witness has given false evidence. If this was in a US Court, he would be accused of perjury. On the other hand, the accused punished his subordinate for his illegal act according to the Japanese Military Criminal Law. Thus, he had carried out his responsibility for the case. As for the supplementary indictment, the witness himself says he knows nothing about the case. Therefore, that testimony of the
witness is invalid. There is no evidence for the concerned incident, and besides, the witness had given false testimony.’
To counter this, the prosecutor argued as follows: ‘The testimonies of the witnesses for all the cases were correct. Although Kumai testified that he had punished Shimoji according to Japanese Army Criminal Law, we cannot trust this. The reason is that so many incidents had happened in Panay Island, but no one had ever been punished with Army Criminal Law. In the trials of many other cases, as a number of witnesses testified, the name Kumai is always mentioned in relation with the Punitive Operations. The victims in Panay numbered as many as 2000. All the officers who joined in the Punitive Operations in which so many incidents are involved are responsible for all the incidents of Panay Island.’ Finally, he said in a particularly loud voice, ‘Therefore I demand for Kumai the sentence of death by hanging,’ then he sat down.
After that, the Presiding Judge announced: ‘The verdict will be handed down on July 9.’ The court adjourned while all present stood up. The interpreter consoled me, ‘Surprisingly, according to the experiences thus far, those who the prosecution demanded death by hanging were saved, while those who were left under the judgment of the Presiding Judge got the death penalty.’
During July 7 and 8, the words ‘death by hanging’ kept resounding in my ears, and I spent the whole time feeling as if a rope was clinging around my neck. I could not sleep at night wondering about the sentence.
On the day of the Judgment, after 8 a.m., I went to the court accompanied by MPs and the interpreter. After everyone stood up, Presiding Judge Ottoman made me and the defense lawyer stand in front, and spoke fast and loud in English: ‘First count..., Second count..,and as soon as I heard the word, ‘Guilty’ I clearly heard ‘Twenty-five years hard labor.’ With these words, all my tension had gone, and I felt a sudden brightness in front of me. Quickly two MPs came up, and took me by the arms to carry me out of the Court almost holding me up in their arms. Outside was waiting a jeep. Lawyer Simon ran up. He consoled me: ‘What is important at the military court is just to survive. Everything will turn out all right as long as you keep alive. The imprisonment is going to be in Sugamo Prison. Your case would have won “Not Guilty” if this trial were in a US court.’ He asked me to write my name and address in his notebook. I thanked Lawyer Simon sincerely and repeatedly. Viewed from the jeep, the scenery along the road, the passers-by, everything looked bright, and naturally the songs I knew came out one after another.
When I returned to the war criminal camp at Canlubang, Ôtsuka’s voice was heard from behind the wire mesh around the facility for those sentenced to death, ‘How did it go?’ As I shouted ‘Twenty-five years!’, Colonel Tozuka and Ôtsuka both called out: ‘Ho, I’m glad to hear that.’ It does not matter if it is inside a prison. I can live. As long as I keep alive. Deeply did I feel the joy of living!
11.4 Seven Executions by Hanging
Following my trial was that of WO Fusataro Shin for the murder of several civilians. The lawyer was also Simon. But by this time, WO Shin was completely obsessed by the supernatural. Astonishing Simon, his affidavit stated: ‘I know perfectly what you, the US Forces, are going to do with me. I have a god abiding in me, and through his words, I know everything.’ Matsuzaki and I warned him that this would not suffice for an appropriate affidavit for a trial. WO subsequently rewrote this, but his fanatic words and behavior might have spoiled the impression he made for lawyer Simon. His having been a former member of the Kempeitai was disadvantageous for the trial. The proceedings of his trial were carried out in complete silence. He had no chance to speak out; and though the lawyer had assured him, ‘No problem, it’s going to be all right,’ Shin received the ‘death by hanging’ sentence around July 15.
The trial of 1st Lieutenant Hajime Fujii was based on dozens of killings. The prosecutor made a Filipino interpreter and spy who had served Fujii, Francisco Manzanilla (called Jiro among the Japanese Army soldiers), stand as a powerful witness. When Francisco met Fujii at the court, he briefly looked apologetic but soon replied to the questions of the prosecutor. Fujii did not object to his testimonies; if he countered the statements of Francisco, things might go against Francisco in his own trial as a Japanese collaborator. Furthermore, countering Francisco’s testimony might increase the number of war criminal suspects among the soldiers of Fujii’s company. So he kept silent. A female witness appeared at the Court. While testifying that Fujii had humiliated her, she collapsed crying. Fujii had already made up his mind that there was no way to avoid the death penalty and his attitude showed his belief there was nothing he could do by making a fuss. His defense lawyer Springer was moved by his transcendental attitude, and he painstakingly took the argument as follows: ‘Although Fujii caused many incidents, the fact that he was promoted without receiving any punishment showed that his deeds were all according to the orders given by his commanders.’
Although Fujii himself did not call in any witnesses, Lieutenant General Kôno Colonel Tozuka had been summoned as his defense witnesses. The defense lawyer tried to have them testify that they were the ones who gave Fujii his orders. However, both Kôno and Tozuka consistently replied that they knew nothing and made no remarks to protect Fujii. As expected, his sentence was ‘death by hanging.’
The trial of 1st Lieutenant Chiyomi Toyota started towards the end of July 1946. The grounds for his prosecution were incidents in Sara. As garrison commander at Sara and a representative of all Japanese Army officers who joined the punitive expedition there, a guilty sentence was expected for him. The prosecution framed Lieutenant Toyota as a war criminal suspect though factual details of the relevant incidents did not fit . Captain Watanabe, in fact, committed the crimes. Therefore, the personnel dispatched to investigate the crime scenes could not find anything that proved his alleged crimes.
The prosecution was surprised but could not withdraw the indictment. The lawyer asked Toyota to admit the indictments as facts and that they would get him a sentence of less than twenty-five years. Toyota chose not to conform, relying on the facts. The trial started. I stood as witness and testified as to the absence of Toyota at the supposed crime scenes since he had been dispatched to completely different areas. In the end, Lieutenant Toyota received a 25-year hard labor sentence as the lawyer had predicted.* (To be continued)