Jabidah massacre

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The Jabidah Massacre, which is also known as the Corregidor Massacre, was the alleged killing of Moro soldiers by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on March 18, 1968.[1] The Moro soldiers were said to have been deceived to believe that they were recruited to become part of an elite unit of the Philippine Army and were only told their real mission, which was to foment chaos in Sabah,[2][3] in the latter part of their training. Consequently, they refused to participate in the mission because it would involve killing fellow Muslims and Sabahans, to whom they were related by blood (the recruits were mostly Tausugs and Samals).[4] The superiors of the Moro soldiers feared leakage of the Philippine's intent to forcibly retake Sabah and decided that they had no choice but to execute all the Moros.

Witness accounts of the massacre vastly differ. The number of victims, for example, is sometimes reported to have been as low as 11, while others estimate that up to 400 were massacred.[5] Some authors[6] believe that the massacre never existed.[12] The Jabidah Massacre is widely regarded[by whom?] as having been the catalyst behind the modern Moro insurgencies in the Southern Philippines.[3][not in citation given]


The north-eastern part of Sabah had been under the rule of the Sulu Sultanate since been given by the Sultanate of Brunei in 1658 for the latter's help in settling a civil war in Brunei[13] before been "ceded"[14] (in which a translation in Tausug/Philippine Malay translated the word as "padjak")[15] to the British on 1878.[14] During the process of decolonization by the British after World War II from 1946, Sabah was integrated as part of the Malaysian Federation in 1963 under the Malaysia Agreement.[16] The Philippine government however protested this, claiming the eastern part of 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. Diplomatic efforts to Malaysia and the United Nations during the administration of President Diosdado Macapagal proved futile. On September 13, 1963, the United Nations held a referendum over Sarawak and Sabah, and the people voted to join to forming the Federation of Malaysia.[17]

Operation Merdeka[edit]

Operation Merdeka
Part of North Borneo dispute
Date 1967–1968
Location Philippines and Sabah, Malaysia


 Philippines  Malaysia
 •  Sabah
Commanders and leaders
Philippines Ferdinand Marcos
Philippines Eduardo Abdul Latif Martelino
Malaysia Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah
Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman
Malaysia Mustapha Harun

This dispute is believed to have led the then-President Diosdado Macapagal, and his successor President Ferdinand Marcos, to establish special military units tasked with fomenting dissent amongst Sabah's non-Malay ethnic groups, namely the Tausūg and Sama, two groups closely aligned ethnically and culturally with Filipinos.[2][18]

The codename for this destabilization programme was "Operation Merdeka" (merdeka meaning "freedom" in Malay), 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.[2] 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 is noted for being where the Arab missionary Makhdum built Taluksangay Mosque, the first mosque in the Philippines, in the 13th century.

The recruits were excited 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 armed forces. From August to December 1967, the young recruits underwent training in Simunul. The name of the commando unit was Jabidah.[19]


Realization of actual mission and massacre[edit]

On December 30, 1967, 135 to 180 recruits boarded a Philippine Navy vessel for the island of Corregidor at the mouth of Manila Bay for "specialized training".[20] 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 Tausūg 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.[19]

The alleged 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,[21] managed to attach himself to driftwood long enough to be rescued by fishermen from the nearby province of Cavite.

There has never been an official count, and different sources number the victims from 11 to about 200.[12]

Protest and the starting of insurgency in the southern Philippines[edit]

The subjective 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 Malacañang 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.

Though it has been argued that the Jabidah massacre was a myth, feelings about it in the Muslim community led to the crystallization of Moro discontent and the subsequent formation of the Moro National Liberation Front and, later, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.[22]

For years, Filipino Muslims had been complaining of official discrimination at the hands of consecutive 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 Filipino Christians in Mindanao, a class of radical Moro intellectuals emerged, led by student activist Nur Misuari.

The Jabidah Massacre further radicalized Filipino Muslims, 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.

Official acknowledgement[edit]

President Benigno Aquino III acknowledged the incident on March 18, 2013, when he leading commemorations on the 45th anniversary of the massacre. This notably marked the first time that a ruling President had acknowledged the massacre as having taken place. Aquino also directed the National Historical Commission of the Philippines to designate the Mindanao Garden of Peace on Corregidor as a historical landmark.[3]


Contrary to the claim of his son President Benigno Aquino III, his father, the late senator, Benigno Ninoy Aquino Jr., a staunch critic of Marcos and a prominent opposition leader, conducted his own investigation and went as far to where it all started-in Sulu, where he found out that the 11 other recruits named by the sole witness Jibin Arula where all alive.[not in citation given]

Ninoy Aquino did not expose the Jabidah massacre but refuted it with clear evidences he gathered after his investigation. He categorically declared in his speech in the Senate that the alleged massacre is a hoax (see Ninoy Speech: Jabidah! Special Forces of Evil delivered in the Philippine Senate on March 28, 1968)[not in citation given]

A Portion of Senator Ninoy Aquino Senate Speech:

In popular cultures[edit]

A film based on the event was released in 1990 starring Anthony Alonzo. it shares the same name however details are fictionalized for the sake of the film.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Marites Dañguilan Vitug; Glenda M. Gloria (18 March 2013). "Jabidah and Merdeka: The inside story". Rappler. Archived from the original on 13 September 2015. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c "Marcos order: Destabilize, take Sabah". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 2 April 2000. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c "Noynoy insists Jabidah massacre true, wants it in history books". The Daily Tribune. House of Representatives of the Philippines. 19 March 2013. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  4. ^ Tingting Cojuangco (25 April 2010). "Jabidah Massacre revisited". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  5. ^ Tom Stern (2012). Nur Misuari: An Authorized Biography. Published and exclusively distributed by Anvil Pub. p. 33. ISBN 978-971-27-2624-8. 
  6. ^ Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr. (28 March 1968). "Jabidah! Special Forces of Evil?". Delivered at the Legislative Building, Manila, on 28 March 1968. Government of the Philippines. Archived from the original on 13 September 2015. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  7. ^ Andrew Tian Huat Tan (2007). A handbook of terrorism and insurgency in Southeast Asia. Edward Elgar Publishing. pp. 199, 219. ISBN 978-1-84542-543-2. 
  8. ^ William Larousse; Pontificia Università gregoriana. Centre "Cultures and Religions." (2001). A local Church living for dialogue: Muslim-Christian relations in Mindanao-Sulu, Philippines : 1965-2000. Editrice Pontificia Università Gregoriana. p. 130. ISBN 978-88-7652-879-8. 
  9. ^ Michael Leifer; Kin Wah Chin; Leo Suryadinata; Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (2005). Michael Leifer: selected works on Southeast Asia. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 674. ISBN 978-981-230-270-0. 
  10. ^ Alfred W. McCoy (2009). Policing America's empire: the United States, the Philippines, and the rise of the surveillance state. Univ of Wisconsin Press. pp. 390–391. ISBN 978-0-299-23414-0. 
  11. ^ Artemio R. Guillermo (December 16, 2011). Historical Dictionary of the Philippines. Scarecrow Press. p. 293. ISBN 978-0-8108-7511-1. 
  12. ^ a b Andrew Tian Huat Tan numbers the victims between 28 and 64, and says that author and social anthropologist Arnold Molina Azurin has written that the massacre is a myth.[7] William Larousse says that a survivor described recruits being shot in groups of twelve. Note 5 on page 130 gives a number of estimates by other sources ranging from 14 to 64.[8] Authors at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies say that Jibin Arula, described as the sole survivor of the massacre, as numbering his fellow trainees killed at 11, while others numbered them at over 60.[9] Alfred W. McCoy puts Arula in a second group of 12 recruits taken to be killed, and describes his escape.[10] Artemio R Guillermo puts the number of recruits at "about two hundred" and says that only one man escaped being massacred.[11]
  13. ^ Rozan Yunos (7 March 2013). "Sabah and the Sulu claims". The Brunei Times. Archived from the original on 17 June 2014. Retrieved 20 September 2013. 
  14. ^ a b British Government (1878). "British North Borneo Treaties. (British North Borneo, 1878)" (PDF). Sabah State Government (State Attorney-General's Chambers). Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 September 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  15. ^ Chester Cabalza. "The Sabah Connection: An Imagined Community of Diverse Cultures". Academia.edu. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  16. ^ "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore (Agreement relating to Malaysia)" (PDF). United Nations. 1963. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 September 2015. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  17. ^ "United Nations Malaysia Mission Report, "Final Conclusions of the Secretary-General"". United Nations Malaysia Mission Report. Government of the Philippines. 14 September 1963. Archived from the original on 13 September 2015. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  18. ^ Matt K. Matsuda (2012). Pacific Worlds: A History of Seas, Peoples, and Cultures. Cambridge University Press. p. 340. ISBN 978-0-521-88763-2. 
  19. ^ a b Paul F. Whitman (2002). "The Corregidor Massacre - 1968". Corregidor Historic Society. Archived from the original on 13 September 2015. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  20. ^ Struggle for Freedom' 2008 Ed. Rex Bookstore, Inc. 2008. pp. 298–. ISBN 978-971-23-5045-0. 
  21. ^ Jocelyn Uy (18 March 2008). "Lone survivor recalls Jabidah Massacre". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Archived from the original on 13 September 2015. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  22. ^ Andrew T. H. Tan (January 1, 2009). A Handbook of Terrorism and Insurgency in Southeast Asia. Edward Elgar Publishing. pp. 198–199. ISBN 978-1-84720-718-0. 
  23. ^ ""Jabidah! Special Forces of Evil?" by Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr.". Government of the Philippines. March 28, 1968. 
  24. ^ Jerry O. Tirazona. "Jabidah Massacre (1990 film)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 

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