(From Inquirer’s In the Know. The above photo of graffiti left by Tausog “jabidah” soldiers in Corregidor before they were massacred is from xiaochua.net)
Out of the roughly 27 Muslim youth allegedly summarily executed in 1968 in what is known as the Jabidah Massacre, only Jibin Arula survived to tell the tragedy.
Arula recounted the alleged massacre in interviews with the Inquirer in March 2008 and March 2009.
In his account, Arula said he was among those who were brought to Corregidor island on Jan. 3, 1968, to train on guerrilla tactics in preparation for “Operation Merdeka,” an alleged top-secret plan of the Marcos administration to invade Sabah in Malaysia.
Named after a beautiful woman in Muslim lore, Jabidah was the commando group that was to carry out the operation. “Malaysia was the target of our mission. We were to invade Sabah. If Malaysia would file a formal complaint in the United Nations, the government was to deny us. It (the government) would claim that we were members of the private army of Sultan Kiram (of the sultanate of Sulu),” Arula said.
“We were promised P50 allowance per month but we received not a centavo. We were fed dried fish, and for coffee, we would use rice leftovers. The commanders were living in luxury while we were living with almost nothing at all,” Arula added.
To air their grievances, the trainees wrote a secret petition to President Ferdinand Marcos. But the letter most likely was intercepted by their training officers, which led to the tragedy, he said.
Before dawn on March 18, 1968, the training officers fired at them on Corregidor’s airstrip, Arula said.
Arula, who was wounded by a bullet in his left knee, swam for his life on Manila Bay, only to be fished out of the waters off Cavite province the next morning.
On March 28, 1968, opposition Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. delivered an exposé speech titled “Jabidah: Special Forces of Evil?” in which he alleged that aside from the recruitment of Muslims to infiltrate North Borneo, former convicts and former members of the Hukbalahap had also been enlisted to wipe out the opposition in 1969, an election year.
Aquino said: “I charge President Marcos with building a secret strike force under his personal command, to form the shock troops of his cherished garrison state.”
Marcos dismissed the accusations as an opposition plot to discredit the administration.
The Jabidah Massacre inspired Nur Misuari, then a political science professor at the University of the Philippines, to establish the Moro National Liberation Front, which fought for a separate Moro homeland in Mindanao.
Arula died in a vehicular accident in 2010.
The following report is from Paul Whitman and posted at corregidor.org:
The codename for the destabilization plan was Operation Merdeka. The plan involved the recruitment of nearly 200 Tausug and Sama Muslims aged 18 to 30 from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and their training in the island-town of Simunul in Tawi-Tawi. Simunul was where the first Arab missionary Makhdum built the first mosque in the Philippines in the 14th 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. That meant, among other benefits, guns, which Muslims regard as very precious possessions. So from August to December 1967, the young recruits underwent training in Simunul. The name of the the commando unit: Jabidah.
On December 30 that year, from 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 P50 monthly allowance. The recruits then demanded to be returned home.
For the Jabidah planners, it seemed that there was only one choice.
THE JABIDAH MASSACRE
As the sole survivor later recounted, the plotters led the trainees out of their Corregidor barracks on the night of March 18, 1968 in batches of twelve. They were taken to a nearby airstrip. There, the plotters mowed the trainees down with gunfire. Jibin Arula, the survivor, said that he heard a series of shots and saw his colleagues fall. He ran towards a mountain and rolled off the edge on to the sea. He recalled clinging to a plank of wood and stayed afloat. By morning, fishers from nearby Cavite rescued him.
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 a firestorm in the Philippine press, attacking not so much the soldiers involved, but the culpability of a government administration that would ferment such a plot, and then seek to cover it up by wholesale murder. The matter even made its way to the Supreme Court in 1970, on a preliminary issue.
Although the exact number of deaths still continues to vary depending upon the source of the reference, there is no denial of the fact that Corregidor was host to a massacre on that night.