Fighting in Marawi in ’72
Marawi made it to the diary of Ferdinand Marcos on Oct. 21, 1972, a month after he officially declared martial law in the Philippines. On that day a group of separatists attacked the Philippine Constabulary headquarters, entered the Mindanao State University campus, took over its radio station, and broadcast calls for support in their quest to separate Mindanao from “Imperial Manila” and the rest of the Philippines. Marcos detailed the events thus:
“Camp Keithley in Marawi City is under attack by a band of outlaws who have taken over the MSU radio, raised the red flag and surrounded the PC Prov Hquarters of Maj. Marohomsar, Prov Commander. Eight of our men have been killed (six outright at Pantar Bridge that leads to the city from Iligan) and one wounded while nine have been killed on the enemy side and one captured who is being interrogated.
“Reinforcements being rushed to the besieged forces. The enemy may number anywhere from 100 to 400. But PC Prov. Hq. under attack holding out. Other Mindanao units alerted in case this attack is a signal of an uprising in all of Mindanao and Sulu.
“I believe the attackers may be a combination of student radicals [Kabataang Makabayan and Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan] supported by outlaws. The red flag may show they are communist-infiltrated or -controlled. And again this may be a diversion from the Luzon front where the communists are hard pressed. Or a demonstration that the leaders I talked to and placated like the Alontos and Pendatun do not run things anymore. Or again this may be a Pendatun and Alonto ploy to gain a stronger bargaining position. But we are not going to bargain. We will hit them hard.”
What they did not know at the time was that the Japanese ambassador to the Philippines was on campus during the attack and hid in the residence of the university president. Had he been captured this attack on Marawi could have turned into an international incident, but the ambassador was able to walk out of the front door the next day, disguised as a rebel. Upon arrival in Manila he was brought to Malacañang to brief Marcos on his experience. Marcos
noted things down in the diary:
“Ambassador [Toshio] Urabe was able to move out of the PSU [sic] where they were practically kept hostages by the Muslim rebels. He arrived in Manila at 4:10 PM and saw me at 5:00 PM to explain what he saw and what had happened.
“I just talked to Gen. [Fidel] Ramos, Gen. [Wilfredo] Encarnacion and Lancaf Task Force Commander Col. [Pedro] Zafra by [single-sideband modulation]. Attached list of request.
“It turns out the rebels are followers of the former Chief of Police dismissed by Major Omar Dianalan, Zakar [illegible] and a former [Bureau of Internal Revenue] man also dismissed for being notoriously undesirable. They both have 200 men each.
“They sought to isolate Marawi City by taking Pantar Bridge over the Agos River and burning the wooden portion. Then they took the MSU radio and sought to rally the people to their side. But the people did not respond because the mayors who had just seen me in Malacañan dissuaded the people from joining the rebels. And the swift retaliatory action by our reinforcements employing mortars and the recoil-less rifles—the 106 and 3.5 mm. (the latter were first employed by the marine company in Pantar bridge when the rebels in full force blocked the road with two panel wagons). The marines suffered five [wounded in action] in that encounter.
“The rebels attacked Marawi and surrounded the PC Prov. Hq. at 4:00 AM and 8:00 AM this morning. They were repulsed again.
“As of tonight there is still sporadic firing and another attack is expected. We are sending two more companies tomorrow. And this includes one company from the PSC [Presidential Security Command? Philippine Service Command?—ARO], the Special Forces company of 100 officers and men.
“Our troops have actually suffered three [killed in action], two [missing in action] and seven [wounded in action] while the enemy has suffered 50-60 KIA, the bodies still lying in front of the PC Hq.
“I have ordered all the rebels who participated in the attack to be accounted for dead or alive. Any sign of weakness will be exploited by the rebels and their protectors.”
Then as now, Marawi is in the news. When will issues be resolved in Mindanao so that the third time Marawi hits the news, it will be good news?
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