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‘Jabidah’ was a big hoax

First of three parts

The so-called “Jabidah massacre” has been the biggest hoax foisted on this nation.

It was a yarn spun in 1968 by treasonous politicians of the Liberal Party at that time as a propaganda weapon intended to deal what they thought would be a fatal blow to then President Marcos’ bid for reelection the next year.

In another demonstration of the law of unintended consequences, the just organized Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) then used the allegation to rouse Muslim youth’s anger so they would rally to the fledgling organization, which the more powerful Muslim traditional politicians refused to support.

The MNLF (and its breakaway group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front) ably mythicized Jabidah to become, as an academic put it, the “sacral moment invoked from time to time to mobilize the Muslims to the movement’s cause.” Misuari portrayed it as the culmination of genocidal attacks against the Moros; therefore, a Bangsamoro—an independent nation-state of the Moros—is necessary.

The mythicization of Jabidah has been so successful that even President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd and supporters of his Bangsamoro Basic Law have falsely, cruelly compared the Mamasapano massacre of 44 police commandos to the nonexistent “Jabidah massacre.” In their ignorance and stupidity, they are spitting on the graves of our fallen heroes who fought for the Republic.

How stupid can this president get: It was his father, then senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., who actually debunked the allegation of a Jabidah Massacre from the very start. His statements on this are preserved in the annals of the Senate as his privilege speech delivered March 28, 1968:

Aquino on the Senate floor: “No massacre on Corregidor.”
Aquino on the Senate floor: “No massacre on Corregidor.”

The so-called “Jabidah massacre” was the purported murder on Corregidor island on March 18, 1968 of 24 Muslim Tausug recruits being trained by the military to infiltrate Sabah and foment there an uprising among their ethnic group against the Malaysian government. According to the plan called Operation Merdeka (Freedom), hatched by Marcos’ armed forces, the uprising would be the excuse for the Philippine military to invade Sabah, which the Philippines had declared to be part of its territory. At that time, our country had a more powerful military than that of the new nation Federation of Malaysia, founded only in 1963.

Two dozens of the Muslim youths who were recruited for Merdeka were purportedly killed because they decided to resign, complaining of poor food and low salary.

In the MNLF’s myth-making though, the reason was changed into a noble one, that the Muslims refused to fight their brother Muslim Malaysians. It was a clever revision of the fictional story. When the top-secret Merdeka was exposed to the public, Sabah’s first Chief Minister Tun Mustafa was livid, and would fund the MNLF and allow them to use Sabah as their refuge and base. Mustafa even arranged for 201 MNLF cadres, including the present chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Murad Ibrahim, to be trained in Sabah by former British Special Action Service offices, which formed the Muslim organizations’ officers’ corps. The growth of the Muslim insurgency is, therefore, to a very large extent, due to Malaysia’s help.

The allegation of a massacre was made when former Cavite governor Delfin Montano, one of Marcos’ fierce political enemies, had one Jibin Arula, supposedly one of the Muslim recruits, file charges March 28 at the Cavite Court of First Instance against Army major Eduardo Martelino and 10 other officers and soldiers whom he alleged were involved in the purported atrocity.

One single witness to ‘Jabidah’

Arula would be the sole person ever to allege that he witnessed the massacre, and the fact that he was “handled” by Montano — who hated Marcos for having him defeaed in the 1967 gubernatorial elections — would be an important element in piecing together what Jabidah was really about, as I will discuss in the second part of this series.

In his suit, Arula claimed that with 24 other Muslim trainees, he was ordered to line up at the airstrip in Corregidor in the wee hours of March 18, 1968, and then shot by their trainers. He claimed that he was hit in the leg, so he managed to run, roll down a hill, hide in the bushes, and swim for hours as he himself put it in “shark-infested” Manila Bay until he was rescued hours later by fishermen – who promptly brought him to Montano.

Aruba’s account was so fantastic, reminding one of a B-grade action movie, that it was obviously scripted as part of a well-planned plot. How could a poor, illiterate Muslim who was shot (in the leg) on March 18 go through a near-death trauma and five days later file a case against the military in a Cavite court? Even rich victims of crimes take months to file a case against ordinary citizens, and longer against those in power, such as the military.

I am not the first to have investigated “Jabidah” and to arrive at the inescapable conclusion that it was a hoax, which I first wrote about in March 2013.

National artist Nick Joaquin (as Quijano de Manila), then a journalist writing in the most respected magazine at that time, the Philippine Free Press, narrated based on his interview with Ninoy: “Upon interviewing Arula, the sole witness to the alleged massacre, Aquino 2nd 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.”

It was academic Arnold Azurin who was the first writer in recent years to question “Jabidah” in a 1994 Philippine Free Press article, which was expanded into a chapter in his book “Beyond the Cult of Dissidence.”

It is certainly one of the curious features of modern society that myths and so-called urban legends survive for decades.

Four congressional investigations by different committees were undertaken, all of which couldn’t establish that there was a massacre. Note that this was four years before Martial law, when the country’s democratic processes were so vibrant, and the opposition was powerful both in Congress and in media.

Aquino didn’t join the mob

Ninoy though, didn’t join the mob condemning the “massacre.” Like a good journalist, which he was before, he went to Jolo to check the facts, to look for the relatives of the Muslim youths purportedly massacred.

From the facts he gathered himself, Ninoy raised serious, even fatal, doubts on Arula’s claim, in his famous privilege speech at the Senate March 28, 1968, which had the misleading title “Jabidah! Special Forces of Evil?

Ninoy in his speech explained his conclusions:

“This morning, the Manila Times, in its banner headline, quoted me as saying that I believed there was no massacre on Corregidor. And I submit it was not a hasty conclusion, but one borne out by careful deductions.”

“After interviewing the self-asserted massacre survivor, Jibin Arula, doubt nagged me that there had, indeed, been a massacre… In Jolo yesterday, I met the first batch of 24 recruits aboard RP-68. This group was earlier reported missing – or, even worse, believed ‘massacred’ … William Patarasa, 16 years old, one of the (Muslim recruits’ leaders) denied knowledge of any massacre.” (Emphasis supplied)

What were these deductions? According to Aquino:

• “What would have been the motive for the ‘massacre?’ Some quarters have advanced the theory that the trainees were liquidated in order to silence them. But then, 24 boys have already shown up in Jolo safe and healthy. To release 24 men who can spill the beans and liquidate the remaining 24 ‘to seal’ their lips would defy logic.”

• “Arula’s fears, which in his place may be considered valid, may not be supported by the recent turn of events. (The) twenty-four recruits (allegedly massacred) have turned up (alive in their home province.)” (Emphasis supplied.)

There hasn’t been a single victim of the “Jabidah massacre” ever identified. For an ethnic group known for its close yet expanded kinship system, no relative has ever claimed his brother, son, cousin, or husband was killed in Corregidor.

Yet, Ninoy’s son in his speech in 2013 when a commemorative plaque was installed in Corregidor for those killed in the fictional “Jabidah massacre’ said: In March 1968, my father exposed the Jabidah Massacre.

What kind of president is this to claim that his father exposed the massacre, when his father’s speech plainly debunked it? (Google it to read it yourself.)

We don’t have to believe Ninoy’s conclusions, though. Just examine the facts — what happened to Arula, what happened to the military officers charged, and what happened to the Jabidah allegations subsequently? I’ll discuss these on Wednesday, and the very sad reason why the Jabidah allegations were hurled in the first place.