Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Speech of President Aquino at the 45th anniversary of Jabidah Massacre, March 18, 2013 (English)

His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
On the 45th anniversary of Jabidah Massacre

[This is an English translation of the speech delivered in Corregidor on March 18, 2013]

On March 28, 1968, my father delivered a speech in the Senate about the events that history would come to know as the Jabidah Massacre. He revealed the Marcos regime’s plan to claim Sabah; it was called Operation: Merdeka.

Let us remember: During that time, the Federation of Malaysia was but a newly born country, and the situation there was complex, while our economy was one of the strongest in our region, and our military battle-ready, locally and even overseas. Even then—and until today—it had been written in our Constitution: “The Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy.”

According to Jibin Arula, one of the members of the Jabidah unit who managed to escape and who was interviewed by my father, the operation went thus: The military would gather Moro warriors from the provinces of Sulu and Tawi-tawi, including a number of the Tausug. They would be brought to Corregidor, and would undergo training to become commandos. They would be sent to Sabah. There, they would sow chaos and begin destabilization—not as soldiers of the Philippines, but with the impression that they were working for the Sultan of Sulu. In the midst of the chaos, the Marcos regime would then find a way to claim Sabah for the Philippines.

Their plan did not succeed. According to my father’s interview with Arula, the Moros experienced excesses in their training; they were not paid the promised wages; [6] and they could not accept that they might need to murder others of their ethnicity just to complete the mission. Those who initiated the operation could not come to terms with the concerns of those in the Jabidah Unit. This is why, on the eighteenth of March, 1968, the young Muslims in the unit were allegedly killed.

The day after my father’s speech, Senator Ambrosio Padilla, who belonged to the same party as Mr. Marcos, then revealed another piece of news related to Sabah. According to him, the Sultan of Sulu had hired Mr. Marcos as a private attorney. What did this mean? It meant that Mr. Marcos would represent the Sultanate; he would be the one engaging in negotiations; he would face the courts; and he would personally benefit had Operation: Merdeka succeeded and the Sultanate regained ownership of Sabah. The response of Mr. Marcos’s camp was that he was not hired as a private individual, but as the President of the Philippines—a move that, according even to his party mate Arturo Tolentino, was illegal—because after all, how could a President serve the entire Philippines and consider the interests of his client at the same time?

From whatever angle you look at Mr. Marcos’s role as attorney of the Sultanate, it is clear that something wrong had taken place, especially considering the ill intentions of Operation: Merdeka. As Doroy Valencia, a columnist, wrote on the 2nd of April, 1968:

“If it were a private deal, it would be legal but certainly immoral. If it were a public instrument of delegation of authority to the President as President, it would be illegal too because the President may not act as attorney-in-fact for a private party.”

It is undeniable that the tragedy of Jabidah opened deep wounds with our Moro brothers. If they were just being taken advantage of by the powerful, what reason was there to identify themselves as Filipino?

This sparked strong feelings of discord, which had already begun to fester due to alleged incidents of land grabbing that occurred often during that period. A few newly-arrived Christians thought to issue titles for land that had, for ages, been farmed by the Lumads and the Moros. The Jabidah Incident caused them to completely lose their faith in the national government. They began to fight back, which is why the Constabulary was sent, and was eventually replaced by the Armed Forces. Violence bred violence; wrongs gave rise to greater wrongs. If they had only crafted laws that recognized the rights of indigenous people then; if the initial concerns of the Jabidah Unit were responded to with empathy instead of violence—how many of the estimated 120,000 Filipinos who have died in the past forty years of armed struggle would be in the company of their families now? How many of the estimated twenty million people who fled from conflict areas would have led productive lives, and would have contributed to the progress of the region?

To this day, we are aware that there are those who are attempting to use the common Moro to push forward their own agendas. Don’t these past few weeks reflect a case of history repeating itself? There are still those who are putting the Moros in harm’s way, risking their safety, while those who planned and urged them on watch from afar. Instead of telling them: “Go home. Your lives are valuable,” they keep adding fuel to the fire, as if the Moros were mere pawns to be sacrificed for some hidden cause. What I can say is this: If some people consider the lives of Moros—the lives of our fellow Filipinos—as mere pieces to advance personal interest—for me, this perspective is inherently wrong.

What is happening in Lahad Datu is a tragedy, just like the tragedy that happened in Jabidah. But perhaps the greatest tragedy is that it seems we have not learned from the lessons of the past—that following the law and respecting the rules are the only reasonable responses to the challenges that we face. This is why, from the very beginning, we have wanted those who headed to Lahad Datu to go home—because we know that calm and reasonable dialogue is more productive, and that violence will lead us nowhere. On the contrary, it will only lead to conflict, and will only create problems that perhaps again will take generations to solve.

We are still determining the true number of casualties in the incident in Lahad Datu. But even now, we know that it is not just those casualties or their grieving families who are affected. There are also the estimated 800,000[12] Filipinos who are living peaceful lives in Malaysia—Filipinos who, if they are suddenly faced with no choice but to return home, cannot be left to without means to take care of themselves; this will certainly affect our economy. A rough estimate: if there are five people per family, 800,000 people would be equivalent to 160,000 families. For food alone, each one of these families will need 250 pesos every three days—which adds up to 4.87[13] billion pesos per year for all of them. For their housing, a quick computation will show that it will cost 32 billion pesos—assuming that houses will be built on government land. This is just for food and shelter, and does not take into account teaching them suitable and sustainable livelihoods, finding them land to farm should it be necessary, building additional classrooms for their children, enrolling them in healthcare, and providing other services so that they may live with dignity. Which programs must we set aside, even momentarily, to pay for these? How do we explain to the rest of our countrymen who also need care from the state? Can we just apologize and tell them that progress will be delayed?

Is it not true that this situation could have been avoided, had we all gone through the right processes? No matter how much we try to be sympathetic, we cannot avoid feeling regret, disappointment, and frustration—because, just like what happened to the Jabidah unit, today, there are also those who chose to put their interests before those of our fellow Filipinos.

It has been four and a half decades since the bloody events here in Corregidor. Members of the Jabidah unit were slain, and on top of that, their ordeal has almost been forgotten. To this day, government has yet to officially recognize it; the incident is taught in class or inserted into books as if it were mere gossip; no measures have been taken to record it in history. We are not trying to raise false hopes: two generations have passed since this incident took place. The prescriptive period for murder only lasts twenty years; after this, no cases can be filed against the so-called perpetrators of this operation. A court martial has also acquitted the accused. But the fact that so much time has gone by does not preclude us from seeking true justice. How can a wound heal, if we cannot bring ourselves to even look at it? How can these wrongs be righted, if we cannot bring ourselves to face the truth?

This is why, today, we are opening the eyes of the Filipino people to the Jabidah Massacre. This happened. And it is our responsibility to recognize this event as part of our national narrative. Today, we are in Corregidor, an island whose ground was watered by the blood of so many Filipinos and stood as refuge for the Voice of Freedom during the last world war, to etch in our collective consciousness the grim truth of what happened to the Jabidah unit—and to ensure that this will not happen again. Because, if the eyes of Filipinos are kept blind to the events that took place in Corregidor on March 18, 1968, then we might as well have discarded the lessons we learned then.

The issue of the ownership of Sabah is connected to the Jabidah Incident. We will begin to resolve this issue not through speculation or mere opinion, but by identifying irrefutable truths. I have a responsibility to dissect history in search of these truths, and from there, to lay down the direction that our country will take as regards Sabah—a direction that I guarantee you will not involve the use of violence. I have already directed the DFA, DOJ, and our Executive Secretary to conduct the research, and to recommend a roadmap that will lead us to the peaceful resolution of the Sabah issue.

I have also directed the National Historical Commission of the Philippines to designate the Mindanao Garden of Peace on this island as a historical landmark. Some details have also been made available to the public on our Official Gazette, in coordination with the NHCP: the history of the events surrounding the Jabidah unit, the timeline of the peace process between the national government and the MNLF and MILF, and other information that can be useful to the public and raise the level of discourse.

It is also my hope that my visit here today will mark our government’s further recognition of the suffering that our Moro brothers went through. Though we cannot undo the wrongdoing of the past, today, we have the responsibility of ensuring that this does not happen again. May this remind us that we could have all avoided the deaths of our countrymen; God willing, in remembering these events and the lessons they can impart, the deaths of our countrymen will gain meaning.

In March of 1968, my father exposed the Jabidah Massacre, while holding firm to the basic principle that the life of each Filipino is invaluable. In his speech, he said: “The life of a Filipino, no matter how lowly he is… is as important as the life of a high official, as important as the life of a President.”

Today, we are here in Corregidor, recalling our past in all humility, as we recognize this truth with our heads held high: whether you are Moro or Christian; Bisaya or Tagalog; Agta, or Ilokano, or Ilonggo; Tausug, Yakan, Maranao, whatever corner of the Philippines you come from, under the flag of a united Philippines, the lives of each and every Filipino have equal worth. I say again: we cannot change the past. We have, however, a responsibility to the present—an obligation to bequeath a much better future to the next generation of Filipinos.

Thank you.

References: English Version, Original Filipino Version

"Moral Governance"

English - "Good governance for a progressive and peaceful BARMM."

Sinama - "Hap pamarinta tudju BARMM na sambu maka salamat"

Bahasa Sug - "Dan mabuntul tudju pa BARMM masambu iban mahatul"

Meranaw - "Mathitu a kandatu sa BARMM ko katagompiya go kalilintad"


"Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE)"