It lost us Sabah
THE so-called Jabidah “massacre” of March 1968—about which an ignorant writer in another newspaper complained why there was no commemoration yesterday on its 50th anniversary—was the Yellow Cult’s first colossal fake news.
If there was any killing it was of President Marcos’ covert plans to forcibly take over Sabah over which we had—and continue to have— legitimate claims under international law, but which Malaysia arrogantly ignored, and continues to ignore.
The episode only revealed the utter lack of nationalism and deviousness of the Liberal Party, and its most articulate leader, Benigno Aquino, Jr., to advance their political ambitions.
Under the guise of investigating reports of a so-called massacre in Corregidor island of young Muslims being trained by the Army Special Forces to infiltrate Sabah, the Yellows in effect ratted on Marcos and his plans to Malaysia.
By doing so, they thought they would torpedo Marcos reelection in the coming year, 1969, especially since he had become popular, even successful in portraying himself and Imelda as the Filipino version of the Kennedys. Even the powerful oligarchic clan, the Lopezes, with their media empire, at the time was supporting Marcos, whose vice president was the patriarch Fernando Lopez.
According to the armed forces plan called Operation Merdeka (“Freedom”), Muslim Tausug recruits were to be trained by the military to infiltrate Sabah and foment there an uprising among their ethnic group against the Malaysian government. The uprising would be the excuse for the Philippine military to invade Sabah and claim it as part of Philippine territory.
That wasn’t a far-fetched plan. At the time, our country had a more powerful military than Malaysia, which was founded only in 1963, and needed only an excuse to forcibly take over Sabah.
By exposing the plan, the Yellows calculated Malaysia would retaliate, and get the one-year old Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) to condemn Marcos, thereby blackening his image in the country.
The Yellows’ Jabidah hoax was the key event that doomed our plans for reclaiming Sabah, with all the talk over a massacre making the issue of reclaiming Sabah so unpopular that Marcos put it behind him. The young nation, Malaysia, strengthened its administration of the vast territory, and scrambled to convince the international community that it was the legitimate owner of Sabah.
The Jabidah hoax would have one huge negative consequence for the Philippines, which hounds it to this day: The growth of the Muslim insurgency, which currently, under the subterfuge of having a Basic Bangsamoro Law, threatens to dismember the country.
MNLF exploited the hoax
Without the Jabidah hoax, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and its breakaway and now the bigger and deadlier organization, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), would not have grown to be insurgencies that threatened the Republic.
The MNLF exploited the much-publicized allegation to rouse the Muslim youth’s anger so they would rally to the fledgling organization, which the more powerful Muslim traditional politicians refused to support.
The communist movement was jump-started really by the so-called First Quarter Storm (FQS) of 1970 – the massive student demonstrations against Marcos – that radicalized the youth and drove them to join the New People’s Army. The impact of the Jabidah hoax on the Muslim youth was 10 times or even more than that of the FQS.
The MNLF propaganda machine mythicized Jabidah to become, as one gullible academic put it, the “sacral moment invoked from time to time to mobilize the Muslims to the movement’s cause.”
It portrayed the alleged massacre as the culmination of genocidal century-long attacks against the Moros: therefore, a Bangsamoro—an independent nation-state of the Moros—is necessary. Another consequence of the Jabidah hoax was that Malaysia naturally retaliated against Marcos’ plans. If the Philippines’ game-plan was to foment revolution against Malaysia among Muslims in Sabah, our neighbor’s was to foment revolution in Mindanao against the Marcos regime.
Malaysia financed MNLF
When the Yellows exposed Marcos’ plans, Sabah’s first Chief Minister Tun Mustafa was livid. He gave huge finances to the MNLF and allowed its members to use Sabah as their refuge and base. Mustafa arranged for several 90-man batches of MNLF cadres to undergo military training in Malaysia conducted by top-notch former British Special Action Service officers. The training in Malaysia was crucial in the growth of the MNLF since despite their vaunted bravery and martial tradition, the Moros were practically medieval in their military outlook and skills. Among these young Moros were the present chairman of the MILF, Murad Ibrahim, and most of the organization’s officers corps.
Malaysia’s support for the MNLF indeed makes up one most important ingredient for an insurgency to grow, as in the case of the Viet Cong: a supportive country to provide logistics and arms as well as physical refuge.
I have written six columns* to prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that the Jabidah massacre was a hoax. I wonder why those still claiming it was real haven’t bothered to read the voluminous transcripts of the Senate and House of Representatives hearings on the issue, as well as the decision of the Military Commission that tried the case originally filed by the sole witness, which show there was no massacre of Moros.
Former President Benigno Aquino 3rd, very ignorantly claimed that it was his father who exposed the Jabidah “massacre.” On the contrary, in a speech even available online, Aquino very categorically said he himself interviewed in Jolo the young Muslims who were reported to have been killed. There was no massacre at all, he concluded.
It has been part of Moro culture to avenge their kinsmen, even if it takes decades to do so, resulting in the so-called, notorious rido, or clan wars, that explains much of the violence in Muslim Mindanao.
Not a single casualty
Yet after 50 years, not a single casualty of the “massacre” has been identified, and not a single relative of the allegedly “11 to 68” massacred, as Wikipedia reports, even during Aquino 3rd’s regime, has surfaced.
The sole alleged witness of the “massacre,” Jibin Arula, evaded going back to his Suluhome province, and settled in Antique. The MNLF and the MILF never took him under their protection, and official documents of the two organizations have never asserted the ‘massacre’ occurred.
Impoverished, Arula went to Naic, Cavite in the late 2000 to be given odd jobs by the son of Melencio Sagun—the chief of police of the town in 1968 who purportedly “found” him after his alleged dramatic escape from Corregidor. It was Sagun who brought Arula to then Cavite Gov. Delfin Montano, a Liberal Party stalwart.
The villain portrayed by the Yellows, Air Force Maj. Eduardo Martelino, who headed the Merdeka plan, after becoming a full colonel and retiring from the service, settled in Tawi-Tawi to live with his Muslim wife in a Tausug village where he had recruited the young Moros for his Sabah operation.
Would he have done that if he, as the Yellows publicly alleged, ordered the Jabidah “massacre”?
There was one unintended consequence of the Jabidah hoax that affected in a big way the course of our nation.
The military became so incensed over the investigations, and the Yellows’ hidden agenda, which was to expose their strategy to take over Sabah. Its top brass and those accused in the investigations even took out front page advertisements in newspapers condemning Congress, for its “politicking” at the expense of the armed forces’ prestige.
Four years later, it didn’t take much for Marcos to convince the military that representative democracy was failing, and he had to declare martial law.
Karma certainly has been a bitch for the Yellows. Marcos’ 13-year rule would nearly wipe them out.
“Ninoy did not expose the “Jabidah massacre,” he even doubted it,” March 20, 2013;
“‘Jabidah’ was a big hoax,” March 22, 2015;
“Clearest indications that Jabidah was a hoax” March 26, 2015;
“Only Aquino was fooled by ‘Jabidah’ hoax,” March 25, 2015;
“National Historical Commission: No ‘Jabidah’,” March 29, 2015;
“The real ‘fuse’ of the Muslim insurgency,“ March 31, 2015.