Cotabato City folks remember Jabidah incident PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 14:33

Cotabato City residents expecting “fiery speeches” about the Sabah conflict heard appeals for a peaceful resolution of the crisis during Monday’s commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the Jabidah Massacre instead.

Even the most politically active faction in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which hosted a banquet at the Al-Nor Convention Center in Cotabato City in honor of those who perished in the March 18, 1968 massacre in Corregidor, only called on local sectors to peacefully pursue their quest for self-rule, via the right to self determination (RSD) doctrine.

Hundreds also participated in a “peace rally” in Cotabato City  Monday to mark the anniversary of the Jabidah Massacre, most of them carrying placards bearing appeals for the peaceful resolution of the Sabah crisis to sustain the momentum of the on-going peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Bobby Benito, founding-director of the Cotabato City-based Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace, said the Philippine and Malaysian governments should treat the Sabah issue as “absolutely separate” from the GPH-MILF talks to ensure the continuity of the now 16-year peace overture.

“That should be treated as two separate, non-related issues. We are here always praying for a peaceful end to the Sabah conflict. It pains us to see Muslims there fighting Muslims,” said Benito, whose office helped organize the peace rally at the Tantawan Park, at the foot of the PC Hill in Cotabato City.

For contemporary Moro historians, sociology and political science professors in different schools here, it was the Jabidah Massacre that fanned the flames of the Moro rebellion and ushered the births of the Mindanao Independence Movement; the Moro National Liberation Front; and later, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The GPH-MILF talks started January 7, 1997.  It was repeatedly punctuated by hostilities in areas supposedly covered by a ceasefire crafted by both sides, but gained momentum in 2004 with the “third party facilitation” of Malaysia.

“The peace negotiation entered into by the GPH and MILF is the best, most peaceful method in addressing the decades-old Bangsamoro issue. We, therefore, must sustain and help keep it going,” Benito said.

The MNLF group led by Cotabato City Vice-Mayor Muslimin Sema said the Jabidah incident ought to be remembered yearly as the “spiritual force” that inspired Moro sectors to rise and forge ahead with their struggle for recognition as a community already existing even before the Philippines became an independent state.
Sema’s group, which has more than 20 “revolutionary states” scattered across Mindanao, is touted as the largest of three factions in the MNLF, which signed a final peace pact with the national government on September 2, 1996.

Sema, however, said the best way now to pursue Moro governance and the political empowerment of the Moro people and non-Muslim indigenous groups in Mindanao is through democratic cross-section, “problem-solving” dialogues participated directly by the national government.
Officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, led by Gov. Mujiv Hataman, attended Monday’s commemoration of the Jabidah Massacre in Corregidor, an event graced by President Benigno Aquino III.

ARMM residents observed Monday as non-working holiday. Hataman declared last week March 18 as a non-working holiday, in keeping with Muslim Mindanao Act No. 67, which declared the date as Bangsamoro Day in the autonomous region.
The Jabidah Massacre is known as the infamous slaughter of dozens of mutinous Moro military recruits during the Marcos regime. The Armed Forces of the Philippines was supposedly training them for a covert operation aimed at regaining control of the resource-rich Sabah.

The massacre ushered in the birth of the Moro uprising for self-governance and self-determination that eventually led to the birth of the Moro factions that fought the government for decades in a secessionist conflict that started in the early 1970s.

The slain trainees were said to have staged a mutiny over non-payment of the allowances promised to them and for lack of food and medical attention while undergoing military training in preparation for their mission to incite an uprising in Sabah with the aim of severing Malaysia’s dominion over the island.