(This was written by Col. Manuel F. Segura)
It has been fifty years since World War II ended. Since then events and situations once classified as secret and top secret have been declassified and can now be told.
Many Filipinos, guerillas and civilians alike, were not fully aware of the nature and extent of the guerilla movement in Cebu , more particularly in the activities of the silent service–our intelligence service.
This story has to do with some facets of our many sided intelligence effort.
One of the men most trusted by the commanding officer of the Cebu Area Command, Col. James M. Cushing, was not a high ranking officer. But he was with the intelligence community. He was Capt. Antonio G. Paulin, then our Assistant G-2.
Cushing gave this officer his unqualified trust, so much so that at one time during Cebu’s only American submarine landing at Barrio Caceres, Oslob, Paulin was issuing orders in the guerilla leader’s name.
He made it appear even to the officers at the guerilla headquarters in Tabunan that Cushing was still in his Advance CP (command post) at Tupas Ridge when in the fact he was in Caceres to personally direct and supervise the extremely important operation.
The September 25, 1944 operation involved the landing of badly needed supplies and their rapid dispersion to the interior.
The plan was for the weapons and ammunition to reach the hands of the fighting men and the medical supplies to reach the various hospitals and medical units in the field at the earliest possible time.
The submarine was the USS Nautilus under the command of Capt. George A. Sharp, USN.
Nobody knew about this setup except perhaps myself who, as Adjutant General of the Cebu Area Command, was privy to information not given to the lower echelons. I also signed the orders of Cushing or, in this incident, signed for him.
This story also deals with the unpublished contact Paulin had with a Cebuano leader who was in the city in the confidence and trust of the Japanese as Governor of Cebu and, later, High Commission of the Visayas.
This man was Paulino Gullas, brother of Vicente Gullas, founder of the Visayan Institute that, through the years, has grown to become the University of the Visayas.
Paulino was in secret liaison Paulin, with the means of communication through highly trusted messengers. This went on until the coming of the American forces of liberation.
Here, I would like to note the series of events that almost resulted in a shooting war between the Cebu patriots and the American soldiers of the Americal Division, which landed to liberate Cebu from the Japanese.
At that time, fighting was still going on in far northern Cebu. The Japanese in the province had not yet surrendered because they had no knowledge that General Yamashita had surrendered to the Filipinos and Americans in Luzon .
Some 9,200 of them would then surrender at kilometer 82 in northeastern Cebu on August 28, 1945, followed by 584 more that surrendered in Asturias on August 30, 1945, then more than a hundred in Colonia, Tuburan, two in Catmondaan and one at the Buanoy River.
The 88th Infantry Regiment under Col. Alejandro “Landring” Almendras engaged the Japanese remnants in Marmol, Tuburan. The 85th Infantry Regiment of Col. Rogaciano “Popoy” C. Espiritu, the 86th Infantry Regiment of Col. Maximo Albinda and the 87th Infantry Regiment of Col. Abel Trazo were spread out across northern Cebu as support troops.
In Cebu City at that time, the Cebu Area Command had set up headquarters in the vicinity of Southwestern Colleges, now the Southwestern University. The headquarters of the officers occupied nearby houses.
Two Americans units operating in the city were the Americal Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) and the Philippine Civil Affairs Unit (PCAU). The process of setting up a civil government was then in progress.
The officers and agents of the Cebu Area Command’s G-2 were also in Cebu City following up the activities of known and suspected Filipinos who had collaborated with the Japanese.
Many of these collaborators were women and most of them were from the lower strata of society. Many were prostitutes who used sex to get close to CIC personnel to influence them, which was easy, as the Americans were away from home for some time.
During this period, G-2 personnel and agents continued to report to the Assistant Chief of Staff or G-2, of the Cebu Area Command, Maj. Jesus “Susing” Ybañez.
The tenor of the reports indicated that many known and suspected collaborators were placed in choice positions of the civil government through the recommendation of members of the American CIC and PCAU.
Ybañez, Paulin and officers of the G-2 then discussed this information. A plan was hatched and soon implemented.
Small banners and stickers were printed and G-2 personnel pasted them on the sides of tartanillas (horse-drawn rigs), caromatas (carabao drawn carts) and other slow-moving vehicles.
The banners proclaimed CIC as “Collaborators In Cahoots” and PCAU as “Filipino Collaborators and Undercovers.” This campaign piqued and irritated the Americans. Shortly after, Paulin was on an intelligence mission in Tuburan in north Cebu .
While there, he received a report from Lt. Max Borres that G-2 personnel, including Major Ybañez, Lt. Montecillo and others, were arrested by the Americans and were incarcerated in the US stockade, which was the Cebu Provincial Jail.
Toñing’s initial, reaction was anger and resentment. He conferred with the regimental commanders and a rescue operation was planned to spring them out.
Among the regimental commanders, only Albinda did not agree with the plan. Back-up units of picked men from the 85th Infantry Regiment were formed to be ready on call.
Toñing asked Almendras for automatic weapons like BARs, Tommyguns and Greaseguns and some good fighting men. He got them.
As they had very scanty information from the city, they felt that they should go there. Landring himself decided to come along in his own jeep with picked men, leaving his regiment in the care of his executive officer, Capt. Jose Momongan.
So, in two jeeps with select groups of fighting men, the two officers motored to Cebu City.
Approaching the American checkpoint at Mabolo, Toñing asked, “What will we do if they stop us?” Landring answered, “We will shoot our way through!” Luckily, they passed the American checkpoint without incident.
While driving slowly in the city, their tempers cooled off somewhat. They decided to see their chief of Staff, Col Olegario Baura, for advice.
So, turning their jeeps towards Baura’s residence. They went up with their tempers still warm to berate him for not taking care of the arrested and confined G-2 officers.
While talking with Baura, Ybañez appeared from behind Baura and greeted them. As was his wont, he hardly said anything.
Events happened fast. They were ordered to appear before a board of officers at the headquarters of Gen. Eugene W. Ridings, assistant division commander of the Americal Division.
Ybañez was brought in and interrogated first, for two hours. He came out looking haggard. He told Toñing that he had told the Americans that he took full responsibility for what had happened.
Paulin was called in next. He had met most of the CIC personnel, struck up friendships, and buddied around during off-duty hours. But now, they looked at him like he was a stranger.
Inside the room, the scene was like what one sees in the movies on Nazi interrogation. He was told to sit in a lone chair with a bright light focused on him. The rest of the room was dark but he could note persons seated in chairs along the walls.
When the American officer started to say something, he cut him short, stopping the session, by saying that he stood on his rights under the Constitution of the Philippines and of the United States of America, citing the 1st amendment and his constitutional right not to say anything that might incriminate him.
He even cited the 5th amendment, adding that if they had specific charges against him, he was willing to face them in the proper court martial.
This effectively stopped the proceedings and after a very brief period of hurried consultations, he was allowed to step out of the room into the outer office.
In the outer office, General Ridings summarily stripped Ybañez of his rank and position and ordered Paulin to take his place. They stepped out of the office and silently walked to their jeep.
When they were again seated, Susing fumbled at his shirt collar and started to remove his rank insignias—his gold oak leaves—and tried to pin them on Toñing’s shirt collar,
Toniñng gently pushed away and asked Susing to re-pin the rank insignias on, saying, “The Americans have nothing to do with this.”
The American officers who observed the drama in this little episode, including Major McGillicuddy said teary eyed, “Sorry about this but we have to do our duty.” The others made no remarks as the Cebuano officers drove off with their men.
Thereafter, things went back to normal.