First of 4 parts
EVERY September in the past few years when martial law again becomes a topic of debate, the purported massacre of some “1,500 Muslims and over a thousand women raped” in Malisbong village in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat in September 1974 by a Philippine Army battalion is presented as evidence that Marcos’ strongman regime was a ruthless, bloody era.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), headed by Jose Gascon, in a September 2018 resolution claimed that the massacre happened and declared September 24 as a day for officially commemorating it.
Strangely though, the resolution based its recognition on the fact that the Human Rights Victims Claims Board awarded “46 claims from Palimbang, 33 of which relate to the Malisbong Massacre.” The schedule of compensation called for P1.2 million compensation for each relative of the alleged victims, all of whom allegedly vanished without a trace after they were killed. These totalled P40 million.
The fake victims could have gotten more than P300 million, as more than 300 alleged victims’ relatives applied for compensation. But to its credit, the Claims Board did not bend over to the demands of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and local politicians to ignore its criteria for proof that they were indeed alleged victims’ relatives.
That this Malisbong allegation has become — but only in the last few years and why so I explain below — a crucial element of the Marcos-era-was-horrible narrative is evidenced by the fact that it is now listed by anti-Marcos propagandists as topping the strongman’s list of atrocities.
After the alleged Malisbong massacre in which 1,500 Muslims were killed, next in the list of “atrocities’ is an alleged one in Bingcul village in Mindanao in 1977, in which 42 Muslims were also supposed to have been killed.
That there has been a well-financed, well-orchestrated plot to create such a colossal deception is also evidenced by the fact a so-called “documentary” on the alleged Malisbong massacre was produced and released in November 2016, which tugged at people’s emotions without providing any proof or evidence, except the dubious claims of “victims’” relatives that the killing happened. The film’s real intent is shown in it sensationalist, melodramatic title. “Forbidden Memory: The Greatest Marcos Horror Story Never Told.”
The film was funded by Cinema One with its Cinema One Originals film festival declaring it as the best documentary film in 2016. Cinema One is a unit of ABS-CBN television network, owned by Marcos’ archenemy, the Lopez clan.
The “massacre” did not happen. It is a hoax.
That it occurred rests entirely on claims of relatives — mostly parents — of the victims. Not a single skeleton or even fragment of bone of the 1,500 victims has been presented.
These accounts by individuals — as against the general claims in the insurgent Moro National Liberation Front’s (MNLF) propaganda material in the 1970s — were made only starting in 2014, when CHR Chairman Loretta Ann Rosales gave official recognition of the alleged massacre in a “commemoration” ceremony on Sept. 25, 2014.
Rosales acted entirely on her own as it would be only four years later, in 2018, that the CHR as a commission, with all members signing the document, recognized that the massacre happened. The CHR didn’t even bother to ask the National Historical Commission (NHC) its assessment of the claim of a “massacre” as the latter did in the case of the alleged “Jabidah massacre,” which I had proven to be the first such hoax of Muslims’ mass murder. (The NHC refused to confirm that there had been a Jabidah massacre, stating that “the events that led to it and the actual occurrence in the morning of 18 March 1968 were never really ascertained.”)
Why did this claim of a massacre suddenly emerge in 2014, four decades later?
The “forbidden memory” suddenly no longer became forbidden and was “remembered” in 2014 because a year earlier, in 2013, the very strong possibility emerged that the so-called victims’ relatives could claim huge amounts of money as “compensation” under Republic Act 10368 or the “2013 Human Rights Victims Compensation Law.”
Before this law was passed, proceeds of alleged ill-gotten Marcos wealth could not be given to any individual despite a US Hawaii Court order, because of the government’s stance that such funds should go to its General Fund for use in the national budget, a position the Supreme Court upheld.
This makes the claims of victims’ relatives highly questionable, as they had a clear motive to fabricate lies: At least P1.2 million for a relative of a victim, authorized by the HR Compensation Law.
It was after the 2013 law was passed that a campaign was undertaken to resurrect what was a long-abandoned, a failed propaganda tack of the MNLF in the 1970s.
Even without any research on whether the massacre occurred or not, the CHR in 2015 produced a “documentary” on it, written and directed by personalities I know to have been past or current cadres of the Communist Party, whose overarching propaganda line has been that the Marcos regime was a bloody one.
It was the separatist MILF, aided by Benigno Aquino 3rd’s pink-party Akbayan, especially its representative Mario Aguja, which lobbied the administration and the CHR to recognize that the massacre happened, and for money to be paid out to the alleged victims, as one of its many demands for it to sign a peace pact with the government.
The “Malisbong Massacre” was an insidious black propaganda that the MNLF — from which the MILF broke away in 1987 — tried to disseminate in the 1970s.
Drawing from its success in creating outrage among Muslim youth with its claim of a Jabidah massacre, the MNLF at that time wanted to enrage the Muslim, oil-rich Middle East nations against the Marcos government with the allegation of a Malisbong Massacre that it claimed was part of a genocidal campaign against their brother Muslims here, so that at the very least they would impose an oil embargo on the country, and even provide the insurgents with arms and money.
That propaganda tack though it soon abandoned, as it could not convince even the Muslims themselves that there was a massacre when not a single corpse could be found. It also went against all Muslim practices that the “victims’” relatives didn’t bother to look for the corpses.
The fake-news disseminators had claimed that the Army threw the corpses to the sea, and were eaten by sharks. But this had seemed highly unlikely as the waters off Malisbong were known not to be shark-infested. Not a single corpse out of the 1,500 allegedly killed and thrown to sea was swept to shore.
The propaganda tack was totally discarded when the MNLF in 1976 was arm-twisted by Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi — who had been trying a year before to get Muslim nations to help the insurgent group — to agree to a peace pact with the Marcos government. Obviously he was unconvinced by the MNLF’s claims of massacres of Muslims by the Marcos government.
I had researched the Malisbong massacre starting June last year, after I saw that “Forbidden Memory” film. I had never before heard of it, even as I had written many articles since the 1990s on the Muslim insurgency. After telling former CHR chairman Rosales that I was convinced it was a hoax, I asked for evidence and arguments to prove it wasn’t. She hasn’t.
I was the first ever journalist, in 1996, to cover the MILF, visit its camps, and interview its top three leaders, its founder and Chairman Hashim Salamat, the late Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar, and its Military Commander (now Chairman) Ibrahim Murad. None of them talked about a Malisbong massacre, which by the number of those killed, 1,500, and by the horror of the mass rape of 1,000 women would have been a casus belli, a rallying issue for the Muslim struggle that would have made another hoax, the Jabidah Massacre, look like a street fight. It wasn’t.
I had passed in 1996 through Malisbong itself on my way to one of the many MILF camps in Sultan Kudarat, and nobody — my guides were all Muslim fighters — bothered to show me the Taqbil Mosque, where there is now a crude, pathetic sign that announces that it was “a placed (sic) where more than one thousand Muslims civilians was massacred (sic) by Philippine Army 15th Infantry Battalion on 24 September 1974.” The sign had the note “Complement (sic) by: Comdr. Tuan Bazar G. Tacbil (MNLF) and Tacbil Family.”
If 1,500 Muslims had been killed there, wouldn’t the MNLF, which had huge funds at its disposal since the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao was set up, have erected a huge monument there to honor its martyrs?
Not one of the 1,500 killed survived to say he escaped the massacre. Not a single woman from the over 1,000 alleged to have been raped has come out to narrate her ordeal.
At least in the case of the other hoax, the Jabidah Massacre, the Liberal Party creators of that black propaganda were more clever in that they presented one eyewitness, who later turned out to have lied to follow the script written by the opposition politicians.
On Wednesday, I will present accounts of three types of “witnesses,” so to speak, that incontestably prove there was no Malisbong Massacre of Muslims.
What really happened, quite ironically, was that the people who were killed en masse at that time were 20 unarmed civilians, non-Muslim employees of an American logging company Weyerhauser, by an armed Muslim group, although it could not be determined whether they were regular MNLF troops or the ruthless Ilonggo vigilantes called the Ilagas.
The MNLF fabricated that Malisbong Massacre, first to cover up for their killing of innocent civilians and the consequent economic crisis in the area that resulted when the logging firm closed down because of the killings. Second, the propaganda aimed to frighten Muslims all over Mindanao that they would be better off taking up arms with the MNLF.
It may have been understandable in the 1970s for the MNLF to fabricate this hoax to gain sympathy for their cause.
It is unforgivable, however, for Yellows and the gullible CHR to disseminate such hoax today that paints a picture of our country as one where 1,500 innocent civilians were mercilessly killed and a thousand of their women raped by Filipino soldiers, and we Filipinos — especially us journalists — didn’t care about it, and hid it in fear of the Marcos dictatorship.
How dare they?