CORREGIDOR ISLAND - President Benigno Aquino III will lead the commemoration of the Jabidah massacre Monday, the first time that the government will acknowledge the incident said to have triggered the Muslim rebellion.
Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Office (PCDSPO) Undersecretary Manolo Quezon said acknowledging the wrong committed against Muslim citizens is one way of making a lasting peace agreement with the rebels.
"Ito na ang isang mahalagang paraan upang kilalanin na nagkamali ang estado sa kanyang mga Muslim o Moro citizens at ang pagbubuo ng isang peace agreement na magtatagumpay at magtatagal--ang isang bahagi nito ay ang pagtanggap ng kanilang kasaysayan bilang bahagi ng ating kasaysayan," Quezon told reporters while on the way to Corregidor aboard the BRP Ang Pangulo.
Smaller commemorative activities have been held by Muslim groups at the site in recent years but it is only now that the government is organizing one.
The President is expected to lead a groundbreaking ceremony of the "Garden of Peace," deliver a speech, be ushered to the Jabidah marker where the President will place his hand print on the "Hands for Peace Wall."
The commemoration came at a time when the Philippine and Malaysian governments are dealing with a conflict in Sabah with followers of the Sulu sultanate claiming the territory.
Aquino is expected to relate recent events in today's commemoration. Quezon said today’s event is “timely,” although the President would have commemorated the anniversary even if the Sabah incident did not happen.
The massacre of Muslim recruits in Corregidor on March 18, 1968 became the bloody end to a top-secret operation of the Philippine military under the Marcos administration to infiltrate and destabilize Sabah with the aim of permanently claiming possession of the territory.
The recruits were supposed to be trained for a guerilla-type operation. After knowing the true intentions of President Marcos, they revolted in protest, detesting the possibility of having to wage war against fellow Muslims in Sabah, many of whom were their distant relatives.
The secret operation was exposed by then Senator Ninoy Aquino. The controversy subsequently caused deep resentment among Muslims against the Philippine government.