Verrry interesting were the photos on the front page of this paper yesterday. One showed two veiled young women taking a “selfie” with the ruins of Corregidor in the background. The other, still “above the fold,” had peace advocates, including Prof. Miriam Coronel Ferrer, chair of the government panel in the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, holding up peace signs in front of the marker recalling the “Jabidah Massacre” that was unveiled recently.
The Jabidah Massacre involved the killing of some 60 Filipino Muslims who had been recruited to take part in a secret training program preparatory to an invasion of Sabah, then disputed territory with Malaysia. As the story goes, the Jabidah mission was aborted when the recruits discovered the real goal of their training and threatened a mutiny. All of them, save for a single survivor, were killed.
The Filipino public would not have found out about the killings were it not for then Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. who exposed it in a privilege speech. But the tragedy would have more far-reaching implications than Ninoy’s national political debut (that would mark him as the foremost opposition leader against President Ferdinand Marcos). The Jabidah Massacre so incensed young Filipino Muslims that it inspired the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front, launching the decades-long Moro insurgency that we are still grappling with to this day.
“It is sad to note that nearly half a century since Jabidah, we have not learned much from history,” a group calling itself the Friends of the BangsaMoro (FOBM) said in a statement issued to commemorate the massacre that took place 47 years ago. “Today, we are again at an impasse in our efforts to bring peace and resolution to the long-suffering ‘Moro Question.’ With the Mamasapano ‘misencounter’ and the differing viewpoints on it, we again face the political and emotional fallout of an armed action that involved vested interests and victimized combatants and innocents alike. This should not have happened, nor should [it] be ever allowed to happen again.”
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Commemoration of the Jabidah Massacre should start the nation off on a crucial march to rectify our own shortsighted view of history, especially with regard to the “Moro Question.”
The killings in Corregidor may have triggered the creation of a united front of Filipino Muslim freedom fighters, but the impetus was born of centuries of oppression and discrimination, during which the Moros, despite the efforts of the Spanish and American colonizers, stood fast in their resistance.
Critics of the peace process and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law may protest that the grant of autonomy threatens the integrity of the republic. But indeed it’s an historical truth that our Muslim brothers and sisters have always felt left out of the mainstream of Filipino nationhood. And this refers not just to political structures or economic gains, but also to cultural isolation, the view of Filipino Muslims as “other,” strange and exotic, different and not to be trusted.
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They may protest that the noise being raised against the passage of the BBL by our legislators and other naysayers is based on “constitutional” grounds, or on the need for justice for the Mamasapano “Fallen 44.”
But the FOBM asserts that the sacrifice of the Special Action Force troopers (as well as of the Muslim fighters and civilians) “would best be served by our continuing pursuit of all-out peace, redoubling our efforts to define a true and lasting resolution to war and our insecurity.”
The group reiterates that they respect and support “Congress’ prerogative and duty to continue investigating and seeking the truth on the Mamasapano tragedy,” and also the legislature’s “prerogative and duty to assign accountability, seek justice and resolution for those involved in the Mamasapano tragedy.”
Likewise, the group recognizes and respects “Congress’ core role of drafting legislation for the greater good of the country and its citizenry,” as well as the body’s “duty to pursue the timely review and passage of a perfected BBL beneficial to all.”
But this doesn’t completely eradicate the urgent need to pass the BBL, which would enshrine into law the years of groundwork and negotiations with the MILF, to bring the decades of conflict and violence to an end.
Says the FOBM: “We are concerned that time is now running short and the task ahead remains urgent and sizeable. We ask the members of the executive committee on the BBL to again convene and resume their sessions on the BBL. We enjoin them to continue their consultations in refining the BBL as needed. Lastly, we look forward to the timely passage of the BBL as the foundation and mechanism for the long-desired peace and development for Muslim Mindanao. Let’s all move forward with the BBL!”
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Meanwhile, war, violence and insecurity continue to plague the general area of Mamasapano, Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Datu Unsay and other municipalities—all in Maguindanao. The current military offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and allied groups has affected more than 100,000 people, all residents of some of the poorest towns in the country.
Data gathered by international NGO Oxfam show that the continued fighting exacerbates the suffering in these farming communities that are periodically assailed by floods and dry spells. Indeed, with a poverty incidence of 57.8 percent, Maguindanao is already poor and struggling. But the fighting has put the populace at even greater risk of dying from hunger and malnutrition, if not from bombs and bullets.
Oxfam’s call: Bring an early end to the offensive in Maguindanao, and give peace a chance!