1923 List of Persons Wanted

Examining Outstanding Warrants in the Philippines

There are moments when my work as a librarian and historian overlap.  Last fall, serendipity placed a fascinating document in my hands – a typed list of wanted persons in the Philippines compiled December 1923 by the Philippine Constabulary. Inserted into the front cover was a stapled, hand-typed document that listed those who had been apprehended or removed from the list over the course of the following year. It was unlike anything I’d seen before and grabbed my attention. The possibilities of digital humanities research stayed in my mind and germinated the seed for this project. This extensive document includes paragraph style descriptions of cases and individuals wanted for crimes and serves as a window into how crime was prioritized and framed during the American occupation of the Philippines. However, to better understand its context, one must examine why (and for whom) the document was created, along with a background of the Philippine Constabulary and American imperialistic policy. That knowledge scaffolding along with the history of violence and spacial analysis provides a framework for analyzing data and gleaning information from the raw primary source. When examined together, a robust image emerges that brings to light lost stories of indigenous resistance along with how a militarized, native-led police force shaped colonizing efforts and “peacekeeping.”

The List of Persons Wanted

The document that formed the foundation of this project, List of Persons Wanted: Alphabetically Arranged by Surnames and Followed by an Index Under Provinces and Municipalities (1924) by the Headquarters, Philippine Constabulary, is a 153-page bound document with a 4-page “Supplement of General Alarm.” Dated December 10, 1924, the supplement reveals the names of those who were apprehended from the comprehensive list and/or which cases were closed during the year. The bound document was distributed to Provincial Governors, Municipal Chiefs of Police, the Intelligence Office, District Inspectors, Provincial Commanders, Company Commanders (of the constabulary), and a few other specific locations. It was a limited publication with likely less than 500 copies produced. It is also somewhat ephemeral in nature, since the subsequent list would supersede the 1924 publication and render it obsolete. Two copies of this work in are held in American libraries, one at Harvard’s Law Library and the other in the Library of Congress. Additionally, the Library of Congress holds a copy of the 1918 edition in poor, non-circulating condition.

Introduction to the Philippine Constabulary

The List of Persons Wanted was created by the Philippine Constabulary, which was established in 1901 “for the purpose of better maintaining peace, law and order in the various provinces of the Philippines.” [1]  The Constabulary’s origin is rooted in American political conditions associated with debates about imperialism, along with reduced Congressional funding and diminished military presence in the Philippines. In 1900, the Philippine-American War became a campaign issue during President McKinley’s reelection bid, causing the American people to grapple with the idea of imperialism. The continued subjugation of a people whom Americans helped liberate from Spain required reframing that “trumpeted the superiority of the American system over all others and attacked Filipino government and society” creating a moral issue questioning the “civilized” nature of Filipinos. [2]  Although the reframing was geared towards the American public, Congress was deeply divided and failed to pass the Spooner Amendment causing issues with monetary appropriation and questions of Philippine civil governance. [3] 

While in the process of transitioning to a civil government, then Governor-General William Howard Taft searched for ways to continue the “pacification” campaign with reduced financial and military resources. Part of the civilian government’s solution lay in the creation of a Filipino police force initially commanded by commissioned American Army Officers. The architect of the idea, Luke E. Wright, chairman of the Commerce, Franchises and Police and Prisons Committee, was inspired by similar programs used by the British in India, the Dutch in Java, and U.S. General Davis in Puerto Rico. [4]  Essentially, it was part of the Western colonial playbook, but even as an established idea, it was met with some U.S. Army resistance for ceding elements of power to another government entity. [5]   

Due to its organizational roots, the Constabulary had a dual role of being charged with handling insurrections that would normally be considered the purview of the military along with traditional police duties. However, partially due to the American military budget being slashed, the Constabulary was entirely funded by local revenues, which resulted in insufficient wages, along with lack of proper arms, medical resources, or “even tools to build their outposts with.” [6]  Part of the arms issue was based in fear that a well-armed native Constabulary could revolt. Instead of repeating rifles, they were given single-barrel shotguns with black powder ammunition. [7]  At the same time, they were still expected to quell uprisings.

The uniform also became a source of contention with the U.S. Army, who initially refused to allow a similar style of dress for the Constabulary. [8]  However, this particular element of inflexibility from the U.S. Army seemingly afforded enlisted native Constables an element of malleability regarding their early uniform construction. According to Konstable: The Story of the Philippine Constabulary, 1901-1991, uniforms in various provinces included diverse dress elements like the “white-striped canamo de hilo mixed with khaki shirts, straw hats, the Muslim red fez, and even G-strings.” [9]  The diverse uniforms may have allowed native Constables to retain a part of their cultural identity that was often eschewed by the West. Additionally, it allowed for comfort in traditional tribal attire. Many of the Constables “from the mountain tribes, were never comfortable wearing the regulation uniform and preferred to wear their more comfortable leg-wear, like the G-string, in lieu of pants.” [10] 

There is little written specifically on the Philippine Constabulary.  Two histories devoted to the department exist, but are framed in a way that, at times, potentially inflates their role in the peacekeeping process.  Konstable The Story of the Philippine Constabulary, 1901-1991, asserts that “greater friendship between the Americans and the Filipinos came about” through the formation of the Constabulary, which did not happen “when the American military was solely in charge of pacifying the people.” [11]  Further, the “US military was distant and aloof” and that the “newly organized Constabulary…gave the people the feeling of being associated with them, and therefore, was a part of the community.” [12]  While potentially true, neither assertion is cited or discussed by other historians.

However, the efficiency of the Constabulary is confirmed in several places. Konstable quotes the first Constabulary Chief Henry Allen as stating, “In chasing down robber bands, the native troops, well-officered by American and native leaders, are unquestionably more efficient than American troops.” [13]  In 1911, Harry Bandholtz the Constabulary Chief at the time wrote to a friend regarding mini-insurrections and plots, “these poor devils are entirely in our hands and can make no moves without our knowledge.” [14]  The Constabulary annual reports also briefly explain their operations, along with potential political issues on a multi-province district level, often illustrating their breadth of knowledge and involvement in larger brush-strokes.

Returning to the List of Persons Wanted, by 1923 this document is the product of a well-established agency.  It is arranged in alphabetical order with paragraph style entries for each person. Some contain thick descriptions of a person’s physical appearance, demeanor, familial relationships, along with why they were wanted by the Philippine Constabulary.  Others are more succinct and limited to name, case number, what they were charged with, and where they were being pursued.  Since it was never intended to public consumption, several aspects of the document require assumed knowledge. For example, the case numbers at the end of each entry are never explained, but their meaning was revealed through noticed patterns during transcription. 

A case number like “(8643-106)” contains both the province information and the chronological case number. Here, “8643” is associated with the province of Zamboanga. This is the 106th case for the province and is tied to a robbery that took placed on June 19, 1920. In this instance, only 106 instances of charged criminal activities have taken place in this province since 1908 (which appears to be the earliest date of case numbers.) This element of context is important because it ties a purported crime to a kind of spacial and temporal coordinates. Without any other context, a case number provides the first layer of “where” and “when” an incident serious enough to receive a case number occurred.

Several bangka- style boats
A visual approximation of the marine escape route from
Davao City to Jolo. “Express map” created in StoryMap.

In terms of the dataset, several categories of relationships including, spouse, parents, other family members, and interpersonal relationships, which often includes accomplices, were separated into searchable fields which may allow for future network analysis studies. In one instance, many of the accomplice names were located through shared case numbers, dates and/or descriptions. These cases are often associated with a “robbery in band” or “escape” charge. The shared relationships, descriptions, and case numbers, led to the identification of a local gang leader on this dataset through an alias on another record. That specific gang, led by Gumbahali, escaped from Davao to Jolo in 1915 sailing a bangka and received protection from the authorities by Datu Bara in Ubian, Jolo, Sulu. The information on one case record allowed for additional connections which may prove fruitful for further research at a later date.

In 1924, the Philippines had 49 provinces and the City of Manila. Due to limited transcription time for this project, the seven provinces originally associated with the Moro province, a designation still in effect according to the 1918 List of Wanted Persons, were transcribed and analyzed. The “Moro province” referenced an area inhabited by diverse indigenous peoples along with those who had embraced the Muslim faith prior to Spanish colonization. The usage of the term has sometimes been a slur, along with a “catch -all” term that reduces identity among various associated ethnic groups.  Covering the island of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, the seven provinces include Agusan, Bukidnon, Cotabato, Davao, Lanao, Sulu, and Zamboanga. Each province reveals different elements that together build the story of what was happening in this area during the early years of American occupation.

Please click the double arrows to reveal the legend and interactive layers. Because of a major event that occurred in Bukidnon, there are 3 layers that exclude that data to allow viewers to look at overall “crime” incidents excluding a raid which occurred in October 1910.

Initially transcribed without Agusan and Bukidon, the dataset originally contained 231 entries. The addition of these two provinces resulted in a dataset with 334 entries. It also revealed how interpretation changes based on inclusion choices. Prior to adding Agusan and Bukidnon, the highest repeated instance of crime appeared to be “escaping jail.” However, the two additional interior provinces showed high levels of indigenous resistance to American occupation with uprisings in 1910 still present in the data. With their addition, the highest instance of crime becomes “murder.” Additionally, the presence of a larger violent event in Bukidnon was revealed through scraps of information that tied together into a larger story.

Like “American Homicide” historian Randolph Roth looking for all available clues, the crumbs of information and patterns of cases in Bukidnon started to build a picture of an event obscured through time and potentially silenced many of the participants in the archives. [16]  A raid on “Barton’s homestead” in Mailag, Bukidnon produced several ripples in the 1923 General Alarm report that are finally tied together with a key piece of information on one wanted entry. The entry for “Manlajilla” revealed that several people charged with “brigandage” on October 24, 1910 were actually associated with a large raid on “Barton’s homestead.” The event was important enough to be referenced in the Annual Report of the Director of Constabulary for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1911;

“In September, and again in October, 1910, the hill people in the vicinity of Mailag, near the boundary between Misamis and Cotabato provinces, robbed the store of Mr. Barton, an American planter and trader there, smashing or taking away articles in the house, cutting down trees, and killing domestic animals. Many of the raiders have since been captured and are awaiting trial. Mr. Barton has withdrawn from his settlement in this remote place.” [17] 

The cover of the 10-page 1912 Constabulary Annual Report

For an event that appears to have generated between 18 (confirmed) and 78 (likely) case files, the description by the Constabulary is almost alarmingly succinct.  The brief, and sometimes vague, nature of the reports is an issue noted by historian Renaldo C. Ileto. In his essay “Orators and the Crowd,” Ileto notes that we know little about the “disturbances” that were quickly stopped. Although his research explores the connection between oration and inciting violent insurrection, his statements on the broad-strokes nature of Constabulary reports resonates. While mentioning several insurrectionist plots between 1912 and 1914, Ileto notes that “the language of the Constabulary records suggests their scale” however the specific details are often missing. [18]    The 1913 annual report that should have covered two of the uprisings mentioned by Ileto, is generously only an 11-page document, with just 5 pages of textual analysis for the entire country. [19] 

The events that transpired at “Barton’s homestead” are illuminated further in Ronald Edgerton’s essay, “Americans, Cowboys, and Cattlemen” who provides additional context including the identity of Mr. Barton.  Captain Eugene Barton was a former Quartermaster of the U.S. Army and the Provincial Treasurer of the province of Misamis until he resigned in 1905. Edgerton reveals that Barton;

“settled with his brother in Mailag, in the valley of the Pulangi River south of Malaybalay. As soon as he has constructed a house, Barton sent to the United States for his wife to join him and began conducting a trading business in which he purchased Bukidnon and Manobo rice, coffee, and hemp for salt, sugar, and cloth. As his business grew, Barton established a store in Mailag, and also “a farm where he eventually laid out bananas, hemp, and about sixty thousand coffee trees.” But in 1910, when they ran afoul of both local Manobos and Dean C. Worcester, Secretary of the Interior, the Bartons’ abandoned their efforts and left. [20] 

Here additional context about Mr. Barton is revealed, but there is little regarding the incidents of October 1910. However, the endnotes which expand upon Dean C. Worcester’s papers finally explain:

A group of Manobos surrounded the Barton store, claiming that Barton had cheated them in paying for lumber they had supplied. Worcester’s appointees in Bukidnon – Frederick Lewis and Manuek Fortich – were slow to come to the Bartons’ rescue, arguing that Mailag was no longer in their jurisdiction… [21] 

With the exception of acknowledging that Eugene Barton may have cheated the indigenous people, most of the information about this event is through a Western lens that focuses on property destruction rather than the indigenous encounters with settler colonialism. In the Constabulary case files, all Manobo and Monteso participants in the raid are charged with “brigandage.” This event is particularly important for showing the discrepancy between the abundant case file data and how the event is portrayed in official reports and the writing of a reputable historian as late as 1984.

Connecting to the History of Violence and Spacial Analysis

At the root of the project is the question “How can the history of violence, along with spacial analysis and mapping provide greater context and framework for understanding primary source documents relating to violence?”  The short answer is that this multi-faceted approach creates a robust scaffolding to pull upon guiding theories, methodologies, and ideas for visual conceptualizations.  Additionally, qualitative, quantitative, and critical analysis of the data may disrupt or challenge accepted narratives and/or reveal voices that were previously silenced by the historic record.

Drawing upon Marisa Fuentes’ Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive (2016) and Rebecca Anne Goetz’s article, “The Nanziatticos and the Violence of the Archive: Land and Native Enslavement in Colonial Virginia” (2019),  the names of the participants in events like the “Barton Homestead” raid are only known because of the outstanding warrants. Their marginalization and side of the story is often obscured in favor of Barton’s experience and is worth reflecting on how many people represented in the dataset may not have other extant archival documentation.  Additionally, Goetz’s discussion of settler colonialism is relevant to consider the treatment of peoples impacted by early 20 th  century settler colonialism in the Philippines.  Many of the earlier histories on American Imperialism in the Philippines favor the extractive economy that dispossessed indigenous people of their land, and lives, when they sought to participate in violent resistance. It is a pervasive trend to be mindful of in the historiography through the 1980s.  

In terms of understanding the causation of violence, Randolph Roth’s American Homicide (2009) provides a convincing framework for exploring what was happening in the Moro province during this time. Returning to the incident at the “Barton Homestead” that particular event can be framed through Roth’s correlations. If those who had been cheated felt a reliance in the government to redress wrongs, they likely would have sought compensation through the judicial system. However, without faith that their voices would be heard or believed, recompence occurred through property damage and theft. It makes sense that trees were cut down during a dispute over being paid for lumber. The case numbers also indicate a community reaction.  In switching to an economy based on currency or barter, the withheld sum may have caused hunger or stretched resources among that community. Additionally, with potentially 78 people being wanted for “brigandage” the community was likely irreparably harmed by the consequences of this collective violence.

Map of the Philippines, 1908

If research time, travel, and language barriers were not an issue, it would have been rewarding to explore this topic on a more granular level. Like Christine DeLucia’s methodology in Memory Lands: King Philip’s War and the Place of Violence in the Northeast (2018) all available sources like archaeological inquires, newspapers, archival research, and additional sources may have illuminated the stories associated with this case files. The land is not an inert backdrop, but much of the historic landscape is obscured. Even attempting to find the accurate location of Camp Indanan proved difficult from available source materials. References to the sale of the property to a boy’s school were not fruitful for revealing a mapped location. Rough descriptions dictated the GPS coordinates. Engagement from afar made it hard to decipher what elements of these colonial case files are extant or referenced on the current landscape.    

Due to problems with deciphering exact coordinates, specific spacial patterns of violence and trends in the data are partially obscured.  Clustering on a map visibly denotes the largest of provincial trends, including Zamboanga’s tendency as a hotspot of escaping the provincial jail, Sulu’s predilection for “theft of large cattle,” Agusan’s nearly 50% rate of crimes related to homicide, and Davao’s penchant for robbery and theft. All play a role in understanding the larger crime profile that shaped these provinces between 1908 and 1923. Despite the lack of granular level GPS coordinates, an  “interactive legend” map  allows viewers to filter the data to examine for further patterns. For example, the filtered data reveals that instances of crimes designated as “robbery” (which denotes a crime against a person) take place most often along the coast or cities that have higher concentrations of population, whereas those described as “theft” (a crime against property) appear in both heavily and sparsely populated areas.

The snapshot of outstanding warrants in 1923/24, is problematic for establishing trends. Although several years are represented in the overall data, knowledge of cases is limited by which warrants are outstanding and still appear in the document. 17.6% of the outstanding warrants occur for “escaping jail.” This high rate of older initial offences, may indicate a decline of violence/ acts deemed to be criminal offences by 1923.  A comparison of the 1918 and 1923 index for these provinces appears to correlate this assertion. There were 392 outstanding warrants/cases for the Moro province in 1918 while the same areas in 1923 only included 334 outstanding warrants/cases, a reduction of about 17%, which includes cases associated “escaping jail”. Excluding “escaping jail” which comprised about 40 cases, there were 81 total new cases if instances of violence/criminal acts added during the years covering 1918-1922 which comprises about 24% of the entire dataset. Rafael Crame became the first Filipino Chief of the Constabulary in 1917. It’s possible that changes made under his leadership contributed to a reduction in outstanding warrants or like Roth’s theory, the faith in government rose after the passage of the Jones Act which created a timeline and American commitment to Philippine independence.  

The green points represent new crimes committed from 1918-1922.

There is so much further information to be gathered from the 334 cases included in the dataset and map which represent a window into the operations of the Philippine Constabulary and what was deemed worthy of criminal pursuit. The data reveals differences in each province that can be visualized based on the approximate crime location. Over 60 fields are available to be mapped as layers in an attempt to make the date as accessible as possible. The spacial analysis is only beginning to scratch the surface of diverse attribute data that has the potential to shape new questions and further this inquiry. Importantly, the data has already shown how the Philippine Constabulary minimized events like the Barton Homestead raid which generated upwards of 78 case-numbers and has the potential to offer further insights with additional analysis and a critical eye.


 [1]  Cojuangco, Margarita R., et. al.  Konstable: The Story of the Philippine Constabulary, 1901-1991. Manila: AboCan, 1991, p.7.

 [2]  Richardson, Heather Cox. West from Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War, Yale University Press, 2008, p. 326-327

 [3]    Stanley, Peter W. Reappraising an Empire: New Perspectives on Philippine- American History. Cambridge, Mass: Published by the Committee on American-East Asian Relations of the Dept. of History in collaboration with the Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1984, p. 236-38

 [4]  Conjuangco, p.6

 [5]  Conjuangco, p.6-7

 [6]  Conjuangco, p.14

 [7]  Conjuangco, p.16-17

 [8]  Conjuangco, p.15

 [9]  Conjuangco, p.15

 [10]  Conjuangco, p.15

 [11]  Conjuangco, p.11

 [12]  Conjuangco, p.11

 [13]  Conjuangco, p.11

 [14]  Stanley, Peter W. Reappraising an Empire: New Perspectives on Philippine- American History. Cambridge, Mass: Published by the Committee on American-East Asian Relations of the Dept. of History in collaboration with the Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1984, p. 89

 [15]  The dataset initially only covered 5 provinces that I erroneously believed to be the entirety of the “Moro” province. However, after acquiring a copy of the index from the 1918 “List of Persons Wanted” I noticed the error and quickly transcribed data for Agusan and Bukidnon.  

 [16]  Aside from references in Philippine Constabulary reports and a reference to Dean Worcester’s papers in Reappraising an Empire, the event is written about and described through a Western lens without the inclusion of indigenous voices or names.

 [17]  Bandholtz, H. H. Annual Report of the Director of Constabulary for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1911.  Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1912, p. 8.

 [18]  Stanley, Peter W. Reappraising an Empire: New Perspectives on Philippine- American History. Cambridge, Mass: Published by the Committee on American-East Asian Relations of the Dept. of History in collaboration with the Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1984, P.89

 [19]  Bandholtz, H. H. Annual Report of the Director of Constabulary for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1913.  Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1913.

 [20]  Stanley, Peter W. Reappraising an Empire: New Perspectives on Philippine- American History. Cambridge, Mass: Published by the Committee on American-East Asian Relations of the Dept. of History in collaboration with the Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1984, P.177

 [21]  Stanley, Peter W. Reappraising an Empire: New Perspectives on Philippine- American History. Cambridge, Mass: Published by the Committee on American-East Asian Relations of the Dept. of History in collaboration with the Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1984, P. 356