The Secretary of State to the Belgian Minister.
Washington, February 15, 1906.
The Department of State has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Belgian minister’s memorandum of May 27, 1905, in regard to the claim of the Belgian firm, El Oriente, and in reply to say:
The Belgian firm El Oriente Tobacco Company seeks to recover $40,000 in silver, the amount which was taken from the steamship Saturnus by the Filipino insurgents in July, 1899, at San Fernando, a port of northern Luzon. A like amount claimed as the property of two German firms, Baer, sr., & Company, and E. A. Weber, is also stated to have been taken at the same time.
The money was taken to the insurgent headquarters at Tarlac, Aguinaldo’s capital, where it merged with other funds in the insurgent treasury. When the insurgents abandoned Tarlac the funds remaining in the treasury were carried to the vicinity of Binalonan. On November 26, 1899, Capt. George A. Dodd, U. S. Army, captured near San Nicolas, about 15 miles from Binalonan, money chests containing $56,567.01 in silver, which it is claimed is the property of the [Page 58] Belgian and German firms. In a note to the Department of State, of November 27, 1902, Baron Moncheur stated:
The claim I am instructed by my Government to present to your excellency would not be justified if the demand were on the United States to make good with its own funds the losses sustained by the Belgian firm, El Oriente, but the point is merely to obtain restitution of a sum of money taken from the Belgian firm by the insurgents and recovered from the latter by the American troops.
This claim has been investigated at four different times by different claims boards at Manila and reported on adversely each time.
The claimants, on the one hand, have been unable to identify the funds taken by the insurgents in July with those captured by Captain Dodd the following November, and in the several investigations there has been no testimony tending to confirm this claim. On the other hand, it was fully established by the evidence presented to the last claims board at Manila that the moneys which Captain Dodd captured at San Nicolas were funds that had been collected from the Filipinos of northern Luzon under requisition of the insurgent government. The principal witness at this hearing was a Filipino captain named Rodriguez, who had been intrusted with the transportation of the money and in whose charge it was when captured by the United States forces. He gave the investigating board the entire history of the matter, beginning with his receiving the money at the hands of the insurgent authorities of the Province of Cagayan, and traced his itinerary from place to place until his approach to San Nicolas, where he hid the money on being apprised of the presence of the United States forces in the vicinity. His statements were corroborated by two other witnesses who were his companions on the journey.
The committee reported in the final hearing, dated August 29, 1904, that they regarded it as affirmatively proved that the moneys captured by Captain Dodd were the moneys brought by Rodriguez from the Province of Cagayan, and, therefore, were no part of the moneys taken by the insurgents from the Saturnus. The findings of the committee were approved by the Philippine Commission January 9, 1905.
The Department of State concurs in the finding of the committee as above stated.