Originally posted in my former blog earlier this year:
Recalling the “Jabidah massacre” that ignited four decades of conflict in Mindanao, a handful of Cebuanos showed support for some 100 young advocates who passed by Cebu in the third day of a peace caravan across the country from Mindanao to Corregidor island next week.
The peace advocates intend to unveil a marker and perform a ritual on March 18, 2008 where at least 28 Muslim recruits of a special commando operation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) called “Jabidah” fell because of automatic fire from their trainers 40 years ago.
On this day, March 18, 1968, they were executed because they found out that their mission was to invade Sabah, where many of their fellow Muslims, friends and families are living in peace. They protested and decided to back out of the training. Since the mission was a top military secret, and to prevent it from being exposed, their trainers brought them to a tiny airstrip, in groups of twelve and subsequently gunned them down.
This incident gave birth to various Muslim groups including the Muslim Independence Movement of Datu Udtog Matalam, the Ansar el Islam of former Senator Ahmad Domocao Alonto, the Moro National Liberation Front of Misuari and later, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front of Hashim Salamat.
The lone survivor of the massacre, Jibin Arula, joins the Mindanao Peoples’ Caravan in saying peace in Mindanao means peace for the whole country.
Arula, who was shot in the leg, managed to swim to safety on the nearly island of Carballo. He told his story, and then-Senator Benigno Aquino launched an investigation into what came to be known as the Jabidah massacre. What was once a tightly kept secret was becoming known to the public.
“Let’s resolve the Mindanao conflict and implement the peace agreements now,” said Fr. Bert Layson, who joined Arula in the journey that started in Davao City last March 12.
On the 30th anniversary of the massacre, March 18 was declared “Bangsamoro Day,” a non-working holiday in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), under Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act No. 16 of the Regional Legislative Assembly whose governor then was MNLF chair Nur Misuari.
The Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus (MPC) is organizing the Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Caravan which will kick off the year-long national campaign dubbed “Let us Resolve the Mindanao conflict, sign and implement peace agreements now!”
“The campaign aims at drawing in the broadest possible support in calling for government to conclude the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and work on the immediate delivery of its commitments in the peace accord that it would sign with the MILF and those that it committed to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the Final Peace Agreement of 1996,” the MPC said in a press statement.
The Peace Caravan “plans to mobilize around 100 youth leaders from provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Zamboanga, Lanao, Cotabato, Maguindanao and Davao,” the MPC said, adding that their participation “will no doubt help us nationalize the Mindanao peace agenda and in mustering the needed support to our call for the resolution of the Mindanao conflict by immediately signing and implementing peace agreements.”
Mindanawons “have already sacrificed and suffered enough from the protracted conflict in Mindanao. Now is the time for us to go beyond Mindanao and let our voices calling for peace echo in Visayas and Luzon. Together let us touch the hearts of every peace loving Filipino as we urge them to help us bring this embattled island to a future of peace and genuine development for the Muslims and Christians alike,” the MPC said.
The Philippine government and the MNLF met in Istanbul, Turkey on February 14 to 16 for the second Trripartite Meeting among the GRP, MNLF and the Organization of the Islamic Conference which brokered the 1976 and 1996 peace agreements and this ongoing tripartite review of the implementation of the 1996 peace pact. The MNLF has been holding an observer status in the OIC since 1977, following the failed 1976 pact.
The Philippine government and the MILF on the other hand broke its 11-month impasse on the ancestral domain issue in October 2007, but ended in yet another impasse in December 2007 just as they were presenting the draft agreement on ancestral domain that they were supposed to base on the consensus points they reached much earlier. ■