Fourth of a five-part series
Unlike the gullible President Benigno Aquino 3rd and his “peace” negotiators, and despite intense pressures put on this government body, the National Historical Commission has refused to recognize that a “Jabidah massacre” occurred.
In his speech in 2013 in Corregidor commemorating the “Jabidah massacre,” Aquino ordered the National Historical Commission (NHC) to officially acknowledge the purported atrocity, “to recognize it as part of our national narrative.” He even led the groundbreaking rites on the island for what was supposed to be the commemorative site for Jabidah.
The NHC—by law the only government agency with the “authority to determine all factual matters relating to official Philippine history” — refused to obey Aquino. It did agree, though, to some kind of a compromise in the hope of calming him down.
It authorized a site in Corregidor as a “Mindanao Garden of Peace.” However, despite feverish lobbying by Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Hajiv Hataman and Chief Peace Adviser Teresita Deles, the NHC refused to even put the word “Jabidah” on the marker in that “garden of peace.”
The Filipino text of the marker (see photo) translates as follows:
“(This site) served as a camp for the training of Moro youth headed by staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. This started in Simunul (now a town in Tawi-Tawi province) 17 December 1967, and transferred to Corregidor, 3 January 1968. The reports of killings of several members on 18 March 1968 served as a fuse for the dispute (“sigalot”) in Mindanao that led to the national crisis in the decade of the 1970s. This Mindanao Garden of Peace symbolizes the goodwill (“kabutihang-loob) among Filipinos to attain peace and progress in our country.”
Commission Chairman Ma. Serena Diokno, daughter of the distinguished late senator Jose W. Diokno, who also investigated the allegations in the late 1960s, informed me that the marker does not at all acknowledge that the massacre ever occurred.
Dr. Diokno explained: “As you can see, the NHC Board worded the text of the historical marker very carefully, mindful of the conflicting accounts of the events: from the personal account of Mr. Jibin Arula to the congressional investigations, including the thorough investigation led by Senator Benigno “Ninoy’ Aquino, Jr. in the Senate, and the Military Court formed to try the military men involved in the secret training.
She added: “While the purpose of the mission was perceived differently, and the events that led to it and the actual occurrence in the morning of 18 March 1968 were never really ascertained, the reports agree on the facts stated in the historical marker.” (My emphasis.)
In plain language, what Diokno is saying is the following: “There was no Jabidah massacre, as far as we can determine at this time, since there are conflicting accounts of whatever happened. However, it is a fact that the “reports of killings” in Corregidor “served as a fuse” for the Mindanao conflict.
While the marker obviously does not acknowledge that a “Jabidah massacre” occurred, top government officials such as chief peace adviser Deles, the chief negotiator with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, and the government’s Hataman — with the help of a gullible press — portrayed last March 18 that the marker “recalls the Jabidah massacre of the Marcos era.”
That Aquino, Deles, and Ferrer believe in the Jabidah hoax reveals two features of their thinking:
First, they are obviously so gullible or just lazy to find out what Jabidah was really all about, that they have accepted what the Moro militants, or what the equally gullible press, have told them. If they are that ignorant about Jabidah, they will be more wrong about the entire Muslim problem in Mindanao, which their negotiations with the MILF are supposed to solve.
Second, they have completely been fooled by the MILF, and have been brought almost totally to the rebel group’s kind of thinking. Why should they represent the government in dealing with the MILF when they now think the same way, so that they are practically on the same side?
While I applaud Dr. Diokno and the NHC for resisting not only Aquino’s pressures but those of the NGOs and even the peace panel, I disagree with the Commission’s crediting the Jabidah hoax as serving as fuse for the Mindanao conflict.
The Jabidah controversy that erupted in 1968 had burnt out and practically forgotten by 1969, and it had been solely Nur Misuari and his Moro National Liberation Front who were invoking that hoax as the Moro casus belli. Word had quickly spread among the Muslims though, even among the militant ones, that Jabidah never occurred. Only lazy journalists and historians, as well as NGO save-the-world do-gooders, who gave weight to the role of the Jabidah hoax to the Muslim conflict.
After all, it is preposterous to believe that a hoax could create such a vast social crusade as the Moro rebel movements.
So what was the fuse of the Mindanao conflict? There wasn’t really a single fuse, but a complex set of factors that led to the Moro uprising, one of which is so mundane you wouldn’t believe it. I will discuss these on Wednesday.
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Dr. Diokno also informed me that the NHC was not aware of a marker titled “Jabidah” installed by Gov. Hataman on Corregidor (see photo), a national park and historical site. I hope the NHC does its duty and tear it down: a plaque commemorating a hoax is a desecration of the thousands of Filipino and American lives sacrificed in their defense of democracy in World War II. What if a communist party cadre, maybe even a Bayan Muna party representative, installs a marker there saying: This was the site where Filipinos became cannon fodders for the US imperialists fighting the Japanese imperialists?