Malaysia’s masterstroke that buried our Sabah claim

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The “Jabidah massacre” commemoration at Corregidor March 18. Why did the MILF and the MNLF ignore it? This article answers that question.

The “Jabidah” question

Second of Three Parts

Malaysia’s leadership have been probably laughing their heads off reading about President Aquino delivering a speech in the event commemorating the alleged 1968 “Jabidah massacre” of Muslim youths initially recruited to form a commando unit codenamed to infiltrate Sabah.

It was the “Jabidah” allegations that hugged headlines for several days in 1968 that buried our claim to that territory in Borneo.  

This was due to three of its consequences:

  • The publicity over the alleged massacre enraged thousands of Muslim youth to swell the ranks of the fledgling Moro National Liberation Front.   Malaysia after “Jabidah” not only gave it substantial finances, but also even militarily trained its first officers and provided sanctuary to its leaders.  President Marcos’ Operation Merdeka (“Freedom”) was intended to create a Tausug rebellion in Sabah. Instead, because of allegations of a massacre of Muslims by Marcos’ army,  it was a Muslim rebellion that broke out in Mindanao,  aided by Malaysia.
  • The Malaysian involvement proved to be crucial to the MNLF’s strength that by 1976 Marcos declared that the only way to end the insurgency is to give up the Sabah claim  so that  Malaysia would stop its crucial support of the secessionists.
  • In the public consciousness, the allegation of such an atrocity as a “Jabidah massacre” was tightly linked to the Philippine claim to Sabah. Indeed writers who have been passionate in claiming a massacre occurred expectedly denigrated the claim as merely due to “Marcos expansionist tendencies.”  It therefore became an unpopular agenda to champion.   Since 1968, no politician would touch with a ten-foot pole our Sabah claim. That attitude ended only as a result of the  bold but bloody expedition to Sabah recently by the Sulu of Sultan’s fighters.

Was Malaysia just lucky that allegations of a “Jabidah massacre” emerged, due to what then senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. called the Marcos administration’s bungling of a “foreign adventure”?

Or was it Malaysia’s brilliant propaganda masterstroke that stopped at its tracks the Philippine claim to Sabah?

There are several things that will strike you if you the study the so-called “Jabidah massacre”:

One, President Aquino should have taken five minutes to read his father’s speech on the matter, titled “Jabidah: Special Forces of Evil?”. While the president claimed that it was his father who exposed “Jabidah”, this is totally false, as Benigno Aquino, Jr.’s speech (posted at government’s website) incontrovertibly show.  In fact, Aquino doubted it and presented facts and arguments that it could be a hoax.

Newspapers at that time, which were mostly anti-Marcos, even bannered Aquino’s views, as the March 25, 1968 banner headline of this newspaper did: “No massacre, says Aquino.” Ninoy was Marcos’ archenemy, tipped then as the next President even, and he would have gone for the jugular if there were a grain of truth to the allegations of a massacre. He didn’t. What he pounced on Marcos was what he claimed was his “bungling attempt” to invade Sabah, in effect leaking the plan to the Malaysians.

Aquino even expounded on his conclusions to one of the most respected journalists at that time, Nick Joaquin (writing as Quijano de Manila), and in the most respected magazine at the time, The Philippine Free Press.  Academic Arnold Azurin, the first writer in recent years to question  “Jabidah”, in his book “Beyond the Cult of Dissidence”  quoted Joaquin:

“Upon interviewing Arula [Jibin] the sole witness to the alleged massacre, Aquino realized that for a second-grade dropout this self-styled survivor of an alleged massacre had an amazing ‘photographic memory’ – he cited a litany of 48 names in full and retraced the elaborate unfolding of events, including the departure of the exact number of men from the camp, batch after batch.”

Aquino according to Joaquin even practically pointed to a Malaysian plot..  As Azurin related Joaquin’s article: “What Ninoy suspects, is that the camp did get infiltrated by [Malaysian] counteragents. To put it more bluntly, some of the boys being trained as secret agents [to infiltrate Sabah] may actually have been double agents.” The Jabidah camp, Aquino related, “was not one of mutiny and massacre, but a camp divided.”

Two, after 45 years, there remains only one sole alleged witness to the massacre:  Arula.  Strangely, he would be ignored by the Muslim insurgent leaders that his death by vehicular accident in Cavite in 2010 was only discovered when Leftist organizers of a “Jabidah’ commemoration were looking for him to attend the event.

There could have been other witnesses who could have corroborated in some way his testimony. Yet there have been none.

For instance, what has been billed as the most extensive account of the massacre narrates, as if in a movie, Army Special Forces “leaping out of a presidential helicopter” into Corregidor to “erase traces” of the massacre, including supposedly, but obviously for horrific drama, “charred flesh and bones” of the victims. The writers must have been watching too many “Bourne Conspiracy” or “Men in Black” movies.

No Army Special Forces member has gone on record to claim that there was such a clean-up operation.

The writers alleged that it was then Army Brig. Gen. Romeo Espino who ordered the cover-up.  But even if he was the AFP Chief of Staff for most of Marcos’ regime, from 1971-1980, Espino’s integrity and professionalism have been unquestioned.  Former President Fidel Ramos would have known about “Jabidah” as he was the Presidential Assistant on Military Affairs at that time, yet he has said nothing, written nothing about it in his voluminous writings.  (Ramos would not have resisted saying something about it “Jabidah” reportedly occurred on his birthday.)

What has been given scant attention is that the “Jabidah” allegations, and the subsequent court martial decision acquitting those accused of it, broke out in 1968. This was during, I would dare say, the golden era of Philippine journalism, when reporters were unrelenting in pursing stories.   This was in fact the era when The Manila Times, The Manila Chronicle, and the Lopezes’ ABS-CBN TV network – known to be viciously anti-Marcos at that time — would have convinced many witnesses and unearthed evidence that there was a Jabidah massacre. They didn’t – or couldn’t.

Did our military in 1968 have a Delta Force of sorts so ruthlessly efficient, so obedient not to talk about their mission, and so good in handling media, that it cleaned up all traces of their dastardly “Jabidah” deed, to pull off the most perfect crime not only in our country, but in the world?

Three, the alleged Jabidah killing deserves a Guinness record of sorts of being the only “massacre” in the world in which no corpse has ever been found, no names of the victims have been determined, and no relative of theirs coming to protest the killing of their loved ones, or just even looking for them.

Contrast that to what happened days after the Malaysians attacked the “Royal Army” fighters in Sabah. Their relatives were interviewed on TV relating how their husbands, sons, or brothers bid them farewell to claim Sabah, and that they were worried what happened to their loved ones.

Four, “Jabidah” supposedly sparked the Muslim rebellion in the 1970s.  Then why have  the MNLF and its breakaway group the Moro National Liberation Front been silent about what is supposed to be a watershed episode in their histories?

There wasn’t a single representative of the MILF and the MNLF in “Jabidah’s” commemoration the other day, in which the Aquino gave a speech.  The only Muslims there were Aquino’s lackey, autonomous region officer-in-charge Mujiv Hataman and his staff.  There wasn’t even a “greetings’ kind of message from the MILF.

The MILF’s official website posted absolutely nothing about “Jabidah”, not even on its anniversary the other day.  At the MNLF’s website, there was only a brief reference to it in MNLF chairman’s Nur Misuari’s message on his organization’s foundation day.

The website posts 32 of Misuari’s speeches since 1997. Not one of these speeches mentions a “Jabidah massacre”.  In fact, Misuari has written only one book, actually a lengthy pamphlet, in 1989: “The Unbroken Thread of Genocide in the Bangsamoro Homeland.”  There is not one word in that pamphlet on the Jabidah Massacre, even if the MNLF rode the outrage over it in 1968 by having its foundation day on March 18, when the supposed massacre occurred.

Do the MNLF and MILF know something most of us outside the Muslim world do not?


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. apu

    nice. hope that people would eventually understand merdeka, freedom from ignorance.

  2. Vincent

    I have always thought that it is ironic for Malaysia to be an observer to the peace process when they have benefitted from the chaos that happened after the supposed massacre. Perhaps they are doing it out of guilt. The British were adept at “divide and conquer” tactics and the Malaysians are their protégés.

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