Not just Jabidah

Amir Mawallil

Posted at Mar 18 2016 09:41 PM | Updated as of Mar 18 2016 10:53 PM

We deny ourselves when we forget our history.

It is often said that our history is written in blood, but during Martial Law, the blood flowed darker and thicker than at any other time in our history.

From 1968 to 1981, Moros were killed in several massacres. Some were killed as they stood in line, believing they would soon be sent home by the Army officers who were training them. They were murdered in a mosque, where the military herded the boys and the men, as the girls and the women were brought to a Navy ship anchored offshore; or shot in the back while lying on the road, where they were ordered to do so by soldiers at a checkpoint.

Few Moros know of this, and even fewer Christians. The killings are an important part of the long history of injustices that can explain the Moro quest for self-determination.

The first of these, and the most known, is the Jabidah Massacre.

Forty-eight years ago, on March 18, 1968, between 10 to 68 Moro youths were killed by Army officers who had been training them for a secret mission. They had been recruited to foment civil unrest in Sabah. The Marcos government thought the Moro youths would help it regain control of the territory. 

But the recruits wrote to Malacanang, complaining they were not being paid and were hardly being fed. A lone survivor of the massacre, Jibin Arula, said he paid a friend to mail it, but he did not know if the letter reached Malacanang. What he knew is that they were disarmed a day after they sent the letter. They were not paid wages, but they were fed better, and dancing and singing were allowed in the camp.

Three weeks later, they were told they would be brought out of Corregidor, where they were training, in groups of 12. Arula's group was the last. They were brought to an airstrip and made to line up. He saw his companions fall down one by one, as Army soldiers shot them.

“Wala akong narinig na nakatawag sa nanay o sa Diyos. Tumba sila lahat,” he told MindaNews in 2009.

He was shot in the leg but he managed to run, and fell off a cliff. He got up, ran towards the shore and swam in the direction of Cavite, near where a passing fishing boat picked him up and brought him to Naic. His story prompted a Congressional investigation.

WATCH: Philippines acknowledges Jabidah massacre, finally

WATCH: How Jabidah massacre caused Moro rebellion

In the MindaNews article, Arula said Nur Misuari told him then: “Jibin wala akong maitutulong sa iyong pera pero ito tandaan mo, ipaghihiganti natin ang Bangsa Islam sa panggobyerno ni Presidente Marcos.”

He heard about the establishment of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) a year later. The MNLF celebrates its founding anniversary every March 18, the same date of the Jabidah massacre.

NOT THE WORST, NOT THE LAST 

The Jabidah massacre was neither the worst, nor the last, among the many injustices committed against the Moros.

In June 1971, around 73 to 79 Moros, including women and children, were killed in a mosque in Manili, Carmen, North Cotabato. Accounts said a Philippine Constabulary officer told residents to come to the mosque for an early morning meeting. Once villagers were inside, the doors were locked and a grenade was lobbed into the mosque.

Four months later, in November 1971, soldiers at a checkpoint intercepted five trucks of Maranaos who left their evacuation center to vote in another town.

On their way back to the evacuation center, they passed a military checkpoint in Tacub, Kauswagan. The soldiers at the checkpoint told the men to get off the trucks and lie face down on the road, so they could search for weapons. The soldiers then shot the men. Between 39 to 60 people were reportedly killed.

In September 1974, at least 1,500 Moro men, aged between 11-70 years old, were massacred in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat. The men were herded into a mosque while women were brought to a Navy boat anchored offshore, as soldiers and militias razed the town. Accounts say many of the girls and women were raped onboard the Navy boat. Some of the victims went insane because of torture and rape.

In October 1977, 700 people were massacred in Patikul. The date is more often remembered in connection with the killing of Brig. Gen. Teodulfo Bautista and 34 of his men, also in Patikul. Some accounts say the massacre was in retaliation for the killing of Bautista.

In February 1981, some 2,000 Moros were killed in a military operation in Pata island in Sulu. Reports say the massacre was also a retaliation for the killing of 124 soldiers under the 31st Infantry Battalion.

SUM OF OUR PAST 

We deny ourselves when we forget our history, for we are, partly, the sum of our past. If the youth are said to stand on the shoulders of those who came before them, then the Moro youth stand on bloody shoulders.

Some would rather forget, because the memory stokes anger that calls for revenge. But that path leads to more injustice, either against the Moros or committed by the Moros, and not healing.

How then, to exact reparation, but without revenge?

The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would have been one solution. Another is to correct the accounts of history, so that we may all remember and learn from the lessons of our bloody past -- Moros and Christians alike.

For the many injustices that are neither remembered nor addressed, there are wounds on the collective psyche of the Moros that must be healed. The first step is remembering.

The Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) has come up with a report and recommendations on how to correct historical injustices and address the human rights violations that were committed against the Moros. I hope the next administration will carry out the recommendations.

Today, March 18, we remember the Jabidah massacre. Tomorrow, hopefully, we – Moros and Christians – can work together to make sure there will never be another.

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*Amir Mawallil is the executive director of the Bureau of Public Information of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.