MANILA, Philippines—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. Inquirer Research
Sources: Inquirer Archives; Official Gazette of the Philippines; Kasaysayan The Story of the Filipino People