IT was astonishing — or maybe not considering his Yellow mental monoplegia — that Sen. Francis Pangilinan in a sparsely attended election rally four days ago said: “The killing of our Moro brothers in the Jabidah Massacre during the Marcos regime is a tragic part of our national narrative that we must never forget.”
Other than being explainable by his intellectual laziness, it is a testament to the phenomenon that fake news, once disseminated by the elites or by the current rulers, takes many, many decades to eradicate. Indeed, as that adage of many versions puts it: “A lie travels around the globe while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
The following is the first column I wrote nine years ago on March 20, 2013, demolishing completely this for-propaganda myth of the “Jabidah Massacre,” which fantasy-weavers claim occurred on March 18, 1968 but which never happened. I have written over eight columns to prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that the Jabidah massacre was a hoax, and nobody, not even the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), have questioned my assertions. These columns appear in the chapter, “The Jabidah Hoax,” in my book “Debunked” (rigobertotiglao.com/shop).
The so-called Jabidah “massacre” of March 1968 was the Yellow Cult’s first colossal fake news.
That fake news though terminated President Ferdinand Marcos’ covert plans to forcibly take over, when Malaysia was then weak, 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 could 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.
The Jabidah hoax nipped in the bud what would have been a tremendous nationalist accomplishment for Marcos: reclaiming and occupying Sabah, a resource-rich area in northern Borneo, which Malaysia has completely occupied and have been developing as its state.
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 Nations (Asean) to condemn Marcos, thereby blackening his image in the country.
The Yellows’ Jabidah hoax was the key event that doomed the country’s 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 during martial law.
Without the Jabidah hoax, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and its breakaway Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would not have grown into insurgencies that actually threatened the Republic in the 1980s that the state had to spend huge resources defeating it.
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 had earlier refused to support.
Contrast this with the communist movement jump-started by the so-called First Quarter Storm (FQS) of 1970, the massive student demonstrations against Marcos, which radicalized the Manila-based youth and drove them to join the New People’s Army. The impact of the Jabidah hoax on the Muslim youth was 10 times 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 expectedly retaliated against Marcos’ plans. If the Philippines’ game plan was to foment revolution against Malaysia among Muslims in Sabah, our neighbor’s tit-for-tat was to foment revolution in Mindanao against the Marcos regime.
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 founding chairman of the MILF, Murad Ibrahim, and most of the organization’s officers corps.
Malaysia’s support for the MNLF also made 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.
Nobody, not the Yellows, the MNLF, MILF and the Philippine Historical Commission (the chairman Ma. Sereno Diokno I had communicated on the matter) has questioned my assertions.
How can they? What really happened is reported in detail in the much-publicized investigations of the Senate and the House of Representatives, and the transcripts can be read — with some patience, of course — at the two chambers’ archives. There was also a year-long Military Commission (before martial law) which investigated the case filed by a single witness, which concluded that there was absolutely no massacre at Corregidor.
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 one dead
Yet, after 50 years, not a single casualty of the “massacre” has been identified.
No one has claimed that his brother, husband, son, a kinsman of the nth degree, or even a friend was among those killed in the purported massacre. Moro propagandists would not even dare pay a scoundrel to claim to pretend he had a Jabidah-massacre relative.
This is astonishing, especially because of the well-known and feared practice of rido among Muslims in Mindanao. Either based on religion or just tribal culture, this tradition requires the family of a murdered person to exact vengeance, even against the relatives of the perpetrator and across the generations.
After the issue died down the sole alleged witness of the “massacre,” Jibin Arula, evaded going back to his Sulu home 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 officially asserted that the “massacre” occurred.
The MILF’s official website posts absolutely nothing about Jabidah. The website features 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.
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.
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 that he had to declare martial law.
One factor that convinced Marcos to go ahead with his strongman rule was the fact that the Jabidah episode exposed an opposition so unpatriotic that it even exposed his plan to reclaim Sabah for the Philippines.
In Marcos’ mind, whether self-serving or not, he had the right to wipe out such an unprincipled opposition, through martial law. Indeed, his declaration of martial law on Sept. 22, 1972 was justified as a move not only to protect the Republic from the communists and the rightist opposition but to stop the “secessionist movement in Mindanao.”
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