38 Years Later, Jabidah Still Haunts a Persecuted People

Mar. 18, 2006

Thirty-eight years ago, the Marcos military murdered dozens of Moro men in a carnage that sparked the Islamic rebellion in the Philippines. The anguish and the outrage remain to this day.

Related story: The Songs of Jabidah

By Cheryll D. Fiel

DAVAO CITY Almost four decades later, the anguish and the thirst for justice remained.

Today, March 18, the countrys Moros commemorate the killing by the Philippine military of 28 Moro men on the island of Corregidor 38 years ago, in a carnage that has come to be known as the Jabidah Massacre.

The men had been trained by the dictator Marcos to take part in his plot, called Operation Merdeka, to invade Sabah, a state on the northern part of Malaysia, just south of the Philippines. According to various accounts, when the men found out about Merdeka, they refused to participate and were promptly slain by the military. Several of the men were not accounted for and are presumed dead.

One man, Jirin Arula, survived the slaughter, however, and went on to expose the massacre, which subsequently fueled the rebellion led by Nur Misuari, founding chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front. To this day, the fire ignited by the massacre still burns, according to Moro leaders.

The massacre, according to the IQRAA Islam Foundation, which held a rally here on Friday to commemorate the incident, “ignited the flame of the Bangsamoro people’s legitimate struggle for their right to self-determination.

Another group, the Moro-Christian Peoples Alliance (MCPA), said the cry for justice for these unjust deaths have remained. Fr. Dionito Cabillas, co-chairman of the MCPA, said the Jabidah Massacre is commemorated by the Moro people with admiration and respect for these men whose death signifies the heroism of common people amid the government’s betrayal and deception.

On Friday, organizations like Khadidja, a Moro womens group; the Liga ng Kabataang Moro; the party-list group Suara Bangsamoro and the IQRAA Islam Foundation held separate demonstrations to mark the day.

In a speech during the rally held on San Pedro Street, Herrmain Arendain, spokesperson of Suara Bangsamoro, recalled that one of the reasons why the victims refused the orders of Marcos was they feared killing their fellow Muslims and sisters and even some of their relatives living on Sabah.

Arendain, meanwhile, lamented that Moros are still subjected to the violence of war and conflict, in large part because of the Arroyo administrations support of U.S. war exercises in Moro areas and the persecution of Moro people who are deemed to be terrorists.

Evelyn Carias of Khadidja said proxy wars through the RP-US Balikatan Exercises, discrimination, the displacement of Moros from their homes and the massacres and human-rights violations in Moro communities continue to this day. “The Bangsamoro people have always been victims of the continuing state-sponsored terrorism in the country,” she said.

The IQRAA Islam foundation said the Jabidah Massacre “is only one among many gory events that littered the path of the Bangsamoro peoples’ struggle with blood.”

In a statement, it cited the carnage in Bud Dahu in Sulu on March 8, 1906, where over 1,000 Tausugs, including women and children, were butchered by American soldiers.

It added that the persecution of the Moro people is far from over, saying that many cases of summary killings, abductions and disappearances of Muslim scholars and teachers on the “baseless and ridiculous suspicion that they were members of the so-called terrorists groups.”

It also cited as a case of anti-Islamic persecution the recent portrayal in a Danish magazine of the prophet Mohammad as a terrorist.

The history of the Bangsamoro is tainted with bloodshed and suffering, said MCPAs Cabillas. And from these arise a call for justice and indemnification not only for past crimes, more so for the governments continuing crimes. May the death of all those who stood for the right, for peace and for democracy, inspire us now amidst the clear and present threat to the Bangsamoro and Filipino peoples democratic rights and freedom.

Meanwhile, the Moro Resistance and Liberation Organization (MRLO), the revolutionary group, urged the Moro people to learn from the history of the Jabidah Massacre. Its chairperson, Hassan Al-Bannah, pointed out that while the MNLF was a consequence of the massacre, Misuaris group entered into a “deceptive” peace agreement with the Ramos administration. The agreement, he said, splintered the Moro peoples armed movement.

Al-Bannah warned the other revolutionary group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), from becoming like the MNLF if it continued negotiating with the Arroyo administration, which he described as treacherous.

He said the current political situation, in which Arroyo is hounded by accusations of election fraud, favors the Moro people in strengthening their ranks against a fascist and deceptive regime. (Cheryll D. Fiel/davaotoday.com)

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