MANILA, Philippines – The Bangsamoro people continue to seek justice 50 years after the Jabidah Massacre happened in Corregidor Island on March 18, 1968. (READ: Jabidah and Merdeka: The inside story)
A clandestine operation, Oplan Merdeka sought the training of a special commando unit – named Jabidah – that would create havoc in Sabah in Malaysia. The situation would force the Philippine government to either take full control of the island or the residents would by themselves decide to secede from Malaysia.
In the end, these young Moros were killed after supposedly complaining about the unkept promises and unfair treatment of the government.
Camille Elemia reports.
A half century has passed since the Jabidah Massacre that triggered the armed struggle in Mindanao, yet the memory still lives in the minds and hearts of the Bangsamoro people, as they continue the fight for autonomy.
The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao government and civil society commemorate the 50th anniversary of the massacre of Bangsamoro men, recruited by the Philippine government to create havoc in Sabah, Malaysia, but ended up being killed by their military trainers in 1968.
Despite government attempts to cover up the injustice, the Bangsamoro people continue to stand by their fallen men 5 decades after.
Twenty-three-year-old Abdurahman Idris' grandfather was among the Bangsamoro men recruited in 1968 who, unlike tens or hundreds of men, fortunately came out of the training program alive. He was not part of the group mercilessly killed by soldiers.
Yet, the 23-year-old could not help but shed tears the first time he came to the island, where the lives of young Moros were snuffed out after being promised a good life in Manila.
Idris: We had a tour and excitement filled our cups until we came to the Army Post Hospital. When I knew it was the same place where the young Moros stayed, it felt like I was on an adventure so I walked alone. The place was dark but the moment was very clear as I glanced to the old damaged walls and saw the markings. My fellow Bangsamoro, know that the information, the names, messages were not only written on the walls but in our hearts, in our minds, and in our memory.
ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman recalls the stories of the lone survivor, the late Jibin Arula, who recounted how they were asked to line up in this runway while waiting for the supposed plane to Manila.
In the end, military men gunned them down in cold blood. Arula escaped by jumping from this cliff and swimming until he reached Cavite.
The bitter tragedy fanned the flames of rebellion among the Moro people with the repeated denials of the Marcos government.
Fighting Marcos propaganda that the Jabidah Massacre never happened was an uphill battle.
Hataman: This means the deceit, misery, and the truth that we had to fight for, so these lies and suffering would be recognized.
Fifty years ago, the massacre sparked the armed struggle in the south, with the establishment of the Moro National Liberation Front and other succeeding groups.
Fifty years after, there are now renewed discussions on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which the people see as a step in addressing these historical injustices.
Sr Maria Arnold Noel, MFI: And so therefore it was very, very timely that we have this Bangsamoro Basic Law and I hope and pray this will be passed. But we also need that we rectify historical injustice that's why we have this transition commission.
Idris: Martyrs do not die, they multiply. So pass the BBL.
The BBL is in the period of debates in the Senate and remains in the committee level in the House of Representatives. There's near certainty that the BBL will be passed into law but whether or not it adheres to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission's version remains to be seen.
Until then, the Bangsamoro people would continue waiting and hoping.
Camille Elemia, Rappler, Corregidor.