Feb 22, 2013

The Jabidah Massacre

The Jabidah massacre, also known as the Corregidor massacre, refers to an incident in which members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) massacred a number of Moro Muslim recruits who were escaping their covert training to reclaim Sabah. Sources differ regarding the details, with the number of victims ranging from 14 to 68, and some sources asserting that the massacre is a myth. The Jabidah Massacre is widely regarded as having been the catalyst behind the modern Moro insurgencies in the Southern Philippines.


In 1963, the resource-rich territory of Sabah, which had been under British control since the late nineteenth-century, formally became part of the Federation of Malaysia. The Philippines, however, protested this, claiming that Sabah had never been sold to foreign interests, and that it had only been leased (padjak) by the Sulu Sultanate and therefore remained the property of the Sultan and by extension the property of Republic of the Philippines.

Operation Merdeka

This dispute led the-then Philippine presidents Diosdado Macapagal then later on Ferdinand Marcos to establish special military units tasked with fomenting dissent amongst Sabah's non-Malay ethnic groups, namely the Tausug and Sama, two groups closely aligned ethnically and culturally with Filipinos.

The code-name of this destabilization programme was "Operation Merdeka" (Operation Freedom), with Manuel Syquio as project leader and then Maj. Eduardo Abdul Latif Martelino as operations officer. The object of this program was the annexation of Sabah to the Republic of the Philippines. The plan involved the recruitment of nearly 200 Tausug and Sama Muslims aged 18 to 30 from Sulu Province and Tawi-Tawi and their training in the island-town of Simunul in Tawi-Tawi. Simunul was where the Arab missionary Makhdum built the first mosque in the Philippines in the 13th century. The recruits felt giddy about the promise not only of a monthly allowance, but also over the prospect of eventually becoming a member of an elite unit in the Philippine Armed Forces. From August to December 1967, the young recruits underwent training in Simunul. The name of the commando unit was Jabidah.

On 30 December 1967, 135 to 180 recruits boarded a Philippine Navy vessel for the island of Corregidor in Luzon for "specialized training."

This second phase of the training turned mutinous when the recruits discovered their true mission. It struck the recruits that the plan would mean not only fighting their brother Muslims in Sabah, but also possibly killing their own Tausug and Sama relatives living there. Additionally, the recruits had already begun to feel disgruntled over the non-payment of the promised monthly stipend. The recruits then demanded to be returned home.

The massacre

The sole survivor of the Massacre, Jibin Arula, recounted how the young Moro recruits were taken in batches of twelve to a remote airstrip where they were executed with machine guns by their military handlers. Arula, who was wounded in the left knee, managed to attach himself to driftwood long enough to be rescued by fishermen from the nearby province of Cavite.

Though there has never been an official count, the number of dead ranges from 28 to 60 according to Philippine government estimates, to over two hundred according to the MNLF.


The truth of the massacre took some time to emerge. In March 1968 Moro students in Manila held a week long protest vigil over an empty coffin marked ‘Jabidah’ in front of the presidential palace. They claimed “at least 28” Moro army recruits had been murdered. Court-martial proceedings were brought against twenty-three military personnel involved. There was also a firestorm in the Philippine press, attacking not so much the soldiers involved, but the culpability of a government administration that would foment such a plot, and then seek to cover it up by wholesale murder.

Despite the court-martial proceedings and a preliminary Supreme Court hearing held in 1970 with Eduardo L. Martelino, Cirilo Oropesa, Teodoro Facelo, Ruperto Amisoto, Alberto Soteco, Solferino Titong, et al. as petitioners, the case disappeared into the thickets of the Philippine justice system and no real punishment was ever handed-down to the accused.


The main legacy of the Jabidah massacre was the crystallization of Moro discontent and the subsequent formation of the Moro National Liberation Front and, later, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The one and only Jabidah Massacre survivor Jibin Arula
For years, Muslims of the Philippines had been complaining of official discrimination by consecutive Philippine governments and the Catholic majority. This included discrimination in housing and education, as well as lack of government funding for the majority-Muslim South. Coupled with the official government policy of settling Catholic Filipino emigrants in Mindanao, a class of radical Moro intellectuals emerged, led by student activist Nur Misuari.

The Jabidah Massacre further radicalized Muslims in the Philippines, leading some to take up arms in the style of the CPP. This new organization, formed in the early 1970s and led by Misuari, was named the Moro National Liberation Front. Following a split over the role of Islam in a Bangsamoro state, a new, more conservative movement emerged in 1981, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. - Wikipedia


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