Clearest indications that Jabidah was a hoax

by Rigoberto Tiglao on March 26, 2015

Third of a four-part series

The clearest indications that the “Jabidah massacre” – claimed to this day to have sparked the Moro rebellion – was nothing but a hoax are the contrasting fates of the alleged perpetrators and the supposed sole witness, Jibin Arula.

The “Jabidah” killings purportedly occurred under the clandestine “Operation Merdeka” in 1968, in which young Muslims were being trained to infiltrate Sabah to foment an uprising against adjacent Malaysia, so the Philippines could intervene and claim it. When one batch mutinied because of low pay, they were killed, as the made-for-movie narrative went.

Although an Air Force major, Eduardo Martelino, headed the entire operation, the training was being undertaken by the Army’s Special Forces, its elite unit established by then Capt. Fidel Ramos.

Other than the president himself, therefore, command responsibility for Operation Merdeka would have been on the armed forces chief of staff at that time.

Who was he? Gen. Manuel Yan, the youngest to be appointed to the post, and considered to have been the best and most principled Chief of Staff the country ever had. He resigned his post when martial law was imposed, declaring that he could not implement it as he thought it unconstitutional. Because of his prestige, though, Marcos convinced him to become ambassador to Thailand. President Cory Aquino subsequently appointed him as ambassador to Indonesia and then to the UK Court of St. James.

Distinguished as Yan was, would he have allowed a whitewash of an alleged Jabidah “massacre”?

Arula, the only “witness” to the alleged “Jabidah massacre”: Both the MNLF and the MILF, though, cared little about him, and he died forgotten in Cavite in 2010.

Arula, the only “witness” to the alleged “Jabidah massacre”: Both the MNLF and the MILF, though, cared little about him, and he died forgotten in Cavite in 2010.

Well maybe, it was the Army commanding general who was the rascal?

The Army commander then was as distinguished as Yan: Gen. Romeo Espino, who went on to become the armed forces’ longest-serving chief of staff. Despite working under from 1972 to 1981, Espino had totally not been tainted by the human rights abuses during martial law. Do you think such a principled military officer would have covered up for his men’s atrocity? I don’t think so.

What happened to the officers accused by the sole witness of murdering or having ordered the killing of at least 24 Muslim youths in Corregidor?

If there were really a massacre of Muslims, you would think that Major Martelino — whom then Senator Aquino demonized as an evil kind of James Bond, the blockbuster movie at that time — would have emigrated to the United States or anywhere in the world to escape Moro wrath. After all, the thousands of MNLF fighters and relatives of those allegedly killed in Corregidor would be going after him, a fatwah in effect declared on him, right?

Martelino converted to Islam

Far from that. Martelino, after his acquittal by the court martial, went on with his military career, becoming full colonel. Even years before Jabidah, he had married a Muslim, Sofia, and converted to Islam, taking the Muslim name Abdul Latif.

After retirement, of all places to live for a man who was supposedly responsible for the Muslim youths’ massacre, Martelino settled down with his Muslim wife in the midst of the Tausugs in Simunul island in Tawi-Tawi, where he first recruited and trained for the Merdeka Muslim infiltrators.

His involvement in Operation Merdeka apparently wasn’t just another military assignment for him, but was part of his life’s cause.

He wrote a book in 1959 entitled “Someday Malaysia,” published in New York, which even United Nations General Secretary Carlos Romulo prefaced and called a “valuable contribution” to scholarship. By “Malaysia,” Martelino wasn’t referring to the Federation of Malaysia, which would be founded only in 1963. He referred to a “Union” he said President Manuel Quezon first conceived: “A prosperous world unit comprising the nations of Southeast Asia inhabited by the Malayan race. Burma, Thailand, Annam, Malaya, Indonesia and the Philippines leagued in an integrated commonwealth.”

And the other officers who were accused by the sole whistleblower Arula of killing the Muslim recruits?

They all went on to have distinguished military careers, the Jabidah accusations against them forgotten. Other than Martelino, Arula — a barely literate former farmer — had filed charges against five officers, who were then tried in a court martial and acquitted. We were able to trace what happened to each.

Then captain Teodoro Facelo, whom the alleged witness Arula claimed recruited him, became a full colonel, and served as the second commander of the Army’s 503rd infantry brigade in the late 1980s. This brigade had been distinguished for its successful campaigns against the New People’s Army — with not a single human rights case filed against its members.

Then Capt. Oropesa rose to the rank of general. Following is the last report on him that I got: On June 26, 2014 – “The 11th Special Forces team, composed of Gen. Cirilo O. Oropesa AFP (Ret), Maj-Gen. Jose Magno Jr. AFP (Ret), Maj-Gen. Rodolfo Canieso AFP (Ret), Gen. Rodrigo Ordoyo AFP (Ret), was honored for their significant role in the training and organization of the 1st Special Forces Company led by then Capt. Fidel V Ramos.”

Lt. Eduardo Batalla got to be brigadier general, and in 1989 was the Philippine Constabulary Commander for Western Mindanao. He was murdered, together with several other officers, by Muslim rogue cop Rizal Alih who took them hostage in a prison break.

Capt. Ruperto Amistoso became a full colonel when he retired, and was recruited in 1990 by Gen. Jose Almonte as the Intelligence and Investigation Services chief of the crack anti-smuggling unit at that time, the Economic Intelligence and Investigation Bureau. Capt. Alberto G. Soteco wasn’t really a military man but a doctor, who, after volunteering for the Philcag contingent in Korea was assigned to the Special Forces’ detachment in Corregidor. He left the military right after they were acquitted by the court martial.

Are these the kind of officers who would undertake a ruthless massacre in Corregidor in 1968?

Lt. Abadilla?

That a Lt. Rolando Abadilla was one of the accused has been taken by Jabidah propagandists as an indication of the ruthlessness of those who were supposed to be guilty of the alleged massacre, since he became notorious in the 1980s as Marcos Metrocom chief. But in Corregidor he was merely a supply officer. Would Marcos have taken as his top henchman a military man whose head would have been put by the MNLF on a bounty because of “Jabidah”?

The only really pathetic figure here in this entire saga is Jibin Arula, the only one who claimed he was an eyewitness to a massacre.

When the Jabidah controversy waned, in part because of the ridicule later heaped on it as “a massacre without the massacred,” Arula’s patron, Cavite governor (a Liberal) Delfin Montano, and the Liberal Party who exploited the issue for purposes of the 1969 elections, discarded him like a used rag after Marcos won the elections.

According to Arula’s own account, Montano gave him P20,000 to leave and fend for himself.

As the sole witness to what was supposedly a historic event that fueled growth of the Moro rebellion, he would have been taken in by the MNLF, even secured him in Malaysia, or for the MILF, to relocate him to one of its many camps in Maguindanao, right?

Nope. He settled in Antique with another woman, leaving his wife in Bonggao, an island in the Sulu archipelago. He would have seven children on that Visayan island and people there didn’t even know he was Muslim as he regularly attended mass in the village’s church.

That the MNLF, MILF, Senator Aquino and the entire opposition Liberal Party cared little for Arula, the only person who “exposed” the “Jabidah massacre” obviously means that they knew something the rest of the country didn’t.

MNLF chairman Nur Misuari, when he got to be ARMM governor, recruited him in 1997 for an assignment with a monthly salary of P7,000, to narrate when asked his Jabidah allegations at forums on the Moro issue. He spoke only at a few of those forums, though. He became jobless when Misuari ended his term in 2000.

Arula resurfaced in 2007, and was interviewed by several obviously gullible journalists (even featured in a documentary by Al-Jazeera) and invited to forums by NGOs at that time during the propaganda campaign for a peace settlement with the MILF.

When his wife died sometime in the mid-2000s, he went to Cavite and was given odd jobs by the son of Melencio Sagun, the chief of police in Naic, Cavite in 1968 who purportedly “found” him after his dramatic escape from Corregidor.

Arula died in a vehicular accident in 2010, which Aquino’s organizers of a planned Jabidah commemorative event found out only in 2011, when they were looking for him as their star participant.

Nobody even knows where he is buried; no relative of his has come out. Not the MNLF, nor the MILF has ever mentioned him again.

Conclusion of this series on Monday: The National Historical Commission resists Aquino’s pressures on the “Jabidah” issue.

Only Aquino was fooled by ‘Jabidah’ hoax

by Rigoberto Tiglao on March 25, 2015

Second of Three Parts

It’s not just former police chief Alan Purisima and Special Action Force (SAF) chief Director Getulio Napeñas—key characters in the Mamasapano drama—who have managed to fool President Benigno Aquino 3rd, leading to the massacre of 44 elite police commandos.

This arrogant, yet gullible president, out of all five chief commanders of the country’s armed forces after Marcos, has also fallen hook, line and sinker for the hoax called the “Jabidah massacre.”

According to this yarn, “24 and even as many as 200” young Muslims who were being trained under “Operation Merdeka” were massacred by Army Special Operations troops when they mutinied.

Merdeka (Freedom) was purportedly a Marcos plan to infiltrate Sabah with Filipino Muslim guerillas to foment an uprising against Malaysia.

Aquino, in his speech at the very first “commemoration” of the Jabidah fiction on Corregidor island in 2013, ordered the National Historical Commission to put Jabidah in our history books and to install a commemorative marker on it in Corregidor, together with a Garden of Peace.

Two years later the Commission has done neither, and it hasn’t authorized whatever is there. There is an unauthorized plaque on “Jabidah,” though, in Corregidor stuck on a World War II bunker, with the tasteless annotation: “Donated by Hon. Majiv Hataman,” with a facsimile of his signature. Hataman is a Liberal Party stalwart who was elected as governor of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

It didn’t cross the minds of those nincompoops who participated in the “commemoration” in 2013 and last March 18 that of all massacres in modern history, not a single victim has been identified as having been killed in the so-called Jabidah carnage.

Foreground, unauthorized marker on “Jabidah” screwed on (background) a World War II bunker in Corregidor with the ‘epal’ “donated-by” note.

Foreground, unauthorized marker on “Jabidah” screwed on (background) a World War II bunker in Corregidor with the ‘epal’ “donated-by” note.

There were four named martyrs in the “Battle of Mendiola Bridge” that sparked a student uprising in the 1970s. There were 13 identified martyrs killed in the Mendiola Massacre during Cory Aquino’s watch in 1987. There were 58 killed, all with names, in the Maguindanao Massacre in 2009. There were 44 police commandos killed in the Mamasapano massacre, and the six civilian casualties were identified.

Not a single Jabidah victim identified

There is not a single identified victim in the “Jabidah Massacre.”

No one has claimed that his brother, husband, son, a kinsman of the nth degree, or even a friend was among those killed in the purported massacre. Moro propagandists would not even dare paying a scoundrel to claim to pretend he had a Jabidah-massacre relative.

This is astonishing, especially because of the well-known and feared practice of rido among Muslims in Mindanao. Either based on religion or just tribal culture, this tradition requires the family of a murdered person to exact vengeance, even against just the relatives of the perpetrator, and runs across generations.

Neither the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) nor the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) sent congratulatory messages for the 2013 anniversary when the “massacre” supposedly occurred and the government’s position on it.

Even as so many writers have routinely claimed—falsely—that Jabidah sparked the “Moro war of liberation,” the two organizations knew full well that it was a fabrication, but have opportunistically remained silent on the issue as it has roused anger among the Muslim youth. The rhetoric of a Jabidah massacre has vanished in official MNLF and MILF documents, although it has been resuscitated by younger Moro politicians notably ARMM governor Hataman.

Not Aquino’s mother Cory, not Ramos, Estrada, nor Arroyo had ever talked about Jabidah, much less order it put in our history books.

When she assumed office, Cory Aquino called for an official investigation into the Jabidah massacre. Nothing came of it, not even the organization of a body to do the investigation. An official close to Aquino had told me: “It didn’t take too long to realize Jabidah was a propaganda hoax, that it was best to keep quiet about it, though, so as not to rile the Moro militants.”

Former president Fidel V. Ramos would have known what really happened, as he was Presidential Assistant for Military Affairs from 1968 to 1969. The Jabidah accusations were officially hurled not at then President Marcos, but the armed forces. The accusations, if true, would have been really personal for Ramos: He founded the Army’s Special Forces Regiment, whose officers were accused of the alleged massacre in 1968, only a few years after he ended his stint as commander of the elite force.

Ramos could have made his negotiations for a final settlement with the MNLF in 1996 easier if he had played to the Moro insurgent gallery—as Aquino is doing now— and declared that his peace pact made the sacrifice of those killed in “Jabidah’ worthwhile. He didn’t, for he knew Jabidah was a hoax.

Part of the Jabidah urban legend, a confusion even written about by scholars, is that Marcos, with his martial law, managed to suppress the controversy.

But the Jabidah accusations broke out in March 1968, more than four years before martial law was declared and during what was actually the golden age of Philippine democratic institutions—the Congress and the Press—which Marcos could not have browbeaten.

The best and the brightest probers

The Senate, in fact, at that time was not just opposition-dominated but manned by the most respected and intelligent senators ever, who could not be cowed by Marcos, among them — other than Senator Ninoy Aquino — Jovito Salonga, Gerardo Roxas, Arturo Tolentino, Jose Diokno, Lorenzo Tanada, Raul Manglapus, Emmanuel Pelaez, Eva Estrada Kalaw. There never, in fact, has been again such a more capable, articulate and principled Senate as they during the Jabidah controversy.

The professionalism, courage and sheer intelligence of journalists in newspapers and TV stations (despite their anti-Marcos biases) like the Manila Times, the Manila Chronicle, and the ABS-CBN network at that time have, in fact, not been seen again.

Tell me, would this kind of Senate and this kind of press – the best and the brightest in our history—be cowed by Marcos and let the issue die down?

Only if they realized it was a hoax. In fact, Jabidah swiftly receded from public consciousness by the end of 1968, with the report that a martial court in February 1971 acquitted the accused officers treated only as a minor inside-page news story.

As supported by facts, I have written in this series, what Jabidah was probably really about was the following, which I’ve deduced using certain details the sole witness Jibin Arula provided:

The Liberal Party around late 1967 learned that Marcos was covertly executing the clandestine military operation for the country to eventually wrest Sabah from Malaysia.

It was Liberal Party Cavite governor Delfin Montano who uncovered it, since it was Lino Bocalan who was providing the logistics and finances for the operation in Corregidor. Montano was closely monitoring Bocalan since his former crony he helped to become the biggest cigarette smuggler in Cavite had defected to Marcos’ side and planned to run against him in the 1969 elections. (Bocalan won.)

Liberal Party strategists thought it could be an issue that would be fatal for Marcos in the then coming 1969 elections. Malaysia would almost certainly protest the operation that risked a war, and even raise it in the UN, making Marcos unpopular.

The Liberals had one big problem, though. If they revealed it through the media, they would be accused of betraying the nation, exposing a secret operation against Malaysia intended, after all, to claim what was really Philippine soil.

However, they would appear to be merely doing their job as the opposition, if rather than just Operation Merdeka, they would protest the killing of Filipino Muslims who decided to leave their training course.

They were even careful not to call for a press conference for their “expose.” On March 25, 1968, just five days after Jabidah supposedly happened, Governor Montano and his lawyers accompanied Arula to file a frustrated murder case against the Special Forces officers in a Cavite court. It was reported only as a minor story first, until Muslim Liberal Party congressmen raised a howl over it, and Ninoy delivered his Jabidah speech March 28.

What an opposition Ninoy and the Liberal Party were! For politics they betrayed the nation, in effect ratting on our country to the Malaysians.

It, however, had two other terrible unintended horrible consequences for the nation.

First, it was really the main reason why the Moro problem has become such a huge one for the nation. It gave the Muslim youth a cause célèbre, indeed a casus belli that roused their anger to join the then secessionist MNLF. Upon learning that the Philippines was serious in claiming Sabah by fomenting a revolt against it, Malaysia similarly retaliated by funding and actively supporting a Moro uprising. The MNLF’s break-away group, the MILF, would grow into such a huge military force it was able to massacre 44 commandos at will, and now claims swathes of central Mindanao as its territory, which for our military to enter needs the group’s permission (“coordination”).

Second, it was an ingredient for Marcos to impose a dictatorship three years later. It convinced the military from its top brass down to the foot soldier that we have such an unprincipled opposition that would even betray the nation just to gain power. Together with the Plaza Miranda bombing two years later in 1971 – which the military was convinced was a communist plot that involved Ninoy, since he missed it — it became easy for Marcos to convince the armed forces, even then PC Chief Ramos and Chief of Staff Espino, that our style of democracy wasn’t working with that kind of opposition, and that they should support as they did, a dictatorship.

Next week: The fate of the sole Jabidah witness and the accused Special Forces officers, and why exposing Jabidah as a hoax is important for our nation’s future.

‘Jabidah’ was a big hoax

March 22, 2015

First of three parts The so-called “Jabidah massacre” has been the biggest hoax foisted on this nation. It was a yarn spun in 1968 by treasonous politicians of the Liberal Party at that time as a propaganda weapon intended to deal what they thought would be a fatal blow to then President Marcos’ bid for [...]

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March 20, 2015

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Has Aquino lost his mind?

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Almonte’s ‘regulatory capture’: The Smart and Globe case

March 8, 2015

Second of two parts (Read Part 1 Almonte: Cory Resuscitated Muslim Insurgency Every year when Forbes’ magazine’s roster of Philippine billionaires comes out, we pore over the list in curiosity, envy, and we wonder how these immortals spend their billions. They are considered models to emulate, and top capitalist-apologists like Dr. Bernardo Villegas idolize [...]

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Almonte: Cory resuscitated Muslim insurgency

March 5, 2015

First of Two Parts For most journalists of my generation, Jose Almonte –ex-President Fidel Ramos’ most trusted confidante, even his ideologue, some say–was a shadowy figure, the former president’s top spook. He was the strategist behind such historic moves as the formation of the RAM during the Marcos dictatorship, the “Big Bird” project that would [...]

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