Jabidah massacre

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The Jabidah massacre, also known as the Corregidor massacre, refers to an incident on March 18, 1968[1] in which members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are said to have massacred a number of Moro Muslim recruits who were escaping their covert training to reclaim the eastern part of Sabah,[2] which had been under the rule of the Sulu Sultanate before being ceded to the British.[3] Sources differ regarding the details, with the number of victims ranging from 11 to 400 [4] and some sources asserting that the massacre is a myth.[10] The Jabidah Massacre is widely regarded as having been the catalyst behind the modern Moro insurgencies in the Southern Philippines.[2]


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 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.

Operation Merdeka[edit]

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

Operation failed to carry out

 Philippines  Malaysia
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.[11][12]

The codename for this destabilisation 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.[11] 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.[13]


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". 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.[13]

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,[14] 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.[10]

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.[15]

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 radicalised 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.[2]


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.

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)

A Portion of Senator Ninoy Aquino Senate Speech:

xxx"This morning, the Manila Times, in its banner headline, quoted me as saying that I believed there was no mass massacre on Corregidor island. And I submit it was not a hasty conclusion, but one borne out by careful deductions. What brought me to this conclusion: 1. Massacre means, to my mind, the wanton killing of men — maybe premeditated, but definitely committed according to a previous plan. I submit that there was no plan to kill the Muslim recruits. 2. What would have been the motive for the “massacre”? Some quarters have advanced the theory that the trainees were liquidated in order to silence them. But then, 24 boys have already shown up in Jolo safe and healthy. To release 24 men who can spill the beans and liquidate the remaining 24 “to seal” their lips would defy logic. 3. Jibin Arula has been telling the truth all along. However, his fears, which in his place may be considered valid, may not be supported by the recent turn of events. Twenty-four recruits have turned up."xxx Full Copy may be accessed in the Official Gazette.

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.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jabidah and Merdeka: The inside story
  2. ^ a b c "Noynoy insists Jabidah massacre true, wants it in history books". tribune.net. March 19, 2013. [dead link]
  3. ^ British Government (1878). "British North Borneo Treaties. (British North Borneo, 1878)" (PDF). Sabah State Government (State Attorney-General's Chambers). Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  4. ^ {cite book|author=Tom Stern. |title= Nur Misuari: An Authorized Biography.|year=2012.
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ Artemio R. Guillermo (December 16, 2011). Historical Dictionary of the Philippines. Scarecrow Press. p. 293. ISBN 978-0-8108-7511-1. 
  10. ^ 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.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] Alfred W. McCoy puts Arula in a second group of 12 recruits taken to be killed, and describes his escape.[8] Artemio R Guillermo puts the number of recruits at "about two hundred" and says that only one man escaped being massacred.[9]
  11. ^ a b "Marcos order: Destabilize, take Sabah". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 2 April 2000. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  12. ^ Matt K. Matsuda (2012). Pacific Worlds: A History of Seas, Peoples, and Cultures. Cambridge University Press. p. 340. ISBN 978-0-521-88763-2. 
  13. ^ a b .The Corregidor Massacre - 1968
  14. ^ Lone survivor recalls Jabidah Massacre - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0378120/

External links[edit]