Jabidah Massacre: A Catalyst in the Bangsamoro Struggle

What is Jabidah?

A codename coined by the Marcos Government that pertains to a commando unit composed of approximately 200 young men, mostly Tausug, Sama, and few Ilocanos (some from Tarlac province), recruited to be trained in Tawi-Tawi on 1967 and later transferred to Corregidor Island.

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Jabidah was created to operationalize the project launched in 1967 by President Ferdinand Marcos through the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) namely Project Merdeka. (Merdeka: literally means freedom in Bahasa Melayu)

What was Project Merdeka for?

Project Merdeka (also known as Oplan Merdeka) is a dark and secret operation launched in 1967 by the Marcos government, which aims to infiltrate and destabilize Sabah in the hopes of separating it from Malaysia and making it part of the Philippines.

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The havoc of the Project Merdeka began when young trainees became dissatisfied with their miserable situation. The promised monthly allowance worth P50 that was promised to them were delayed; most were not given to them.

Food served daily were tuyo (dried fish) and tutong (burnt rice). Beds were made from ipil wood. Aside from their miserable condition, the trainees refused to invade Sabah upon learning that their main duty was to take over the resource-rich island, burn down establishments and destroy the life of their brethren in Sabah. Afraid that these young trainees will revolt at any moment, the AFP officials and soldiers knew that they had to proactively take precautionary measures.

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How did the Marcos government respond?

To cover-up the growing restlessness in the campus, Marcos government sent a special task force under the AFP in a secret assignment to exterminate these young trainees from the operation.

On March 18, 1968, 24 young Muslim men were massacred in Corregidor Island. This is now known as the Jabidah Massacre.

What are other personalities saying about Jabidah?

The incident of Project Merdeka came in different versions. While others believed that the objective was to take Sabah away from Malaysia and make it part of the Philippines, there are other personalities who claim that the real intention of Project Merdeka was to keep these armed groups (majority are Tausug and Sama) under control. In military affairs, this is known as the “Denial Strategy” wherein the military makes it physically difficult for the armed groups to achieve their objectives.

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What does the Bangsamoro struggle have to do with all this?

Jabidah Massacre is a key historical event in the history of the Bangsamoro struggle. The atrocious killings ignited the light of the Muslim uprising and were a wakeup call of the injustices suffered by the Muslims in the Philippines. The incident gave birth to various movements – including the Muslim Independence Movement (MIM), Ansar El-Islam and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The rise of these various movements was instrumental in reasserting their struggle for self-determination.

Does it matter whether the Jabidah massacre is real or just a hoax?

For some Filipinos and foreigners, Jabidah Massacre might be an insignificant term they often read in their History textbooks. Others would even claim that it is a hoax, a propaganda created to destabilize the Marcos cronies.

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However, for us Filipino Muslims, acknowledging the existence Jabidah massacre matter. We undoubtedly believe in the reality of the Jabidah massacre; in the testimonies of the lone Jabidah massacre survivor, Jibin Arula of Sulu; in the revelations of a former trainer of the Jabidah unit, Ernesto Samba of Tawi-Tawi. Because of these 24 brave souls who were treacherously murdered, our voices have been amplified, our cries have awoken the Ummah (Muslim community), our stories have been heard.

Tragic as it looks, but because of Jabidah massacre, our struggle for our self-determination was revitalized.





———-. (2018, March 22). Denial Military Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/: https://www.britannica.com/topic/denial-military-strategy

Gloria, M. D. (2000). Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao. Quezon city: Ateneo Center for Social Policy & Public Affairs, Institute for Popular Democracy.

Majul, C. A. (1988). The Moro Struggle in the Philippines. Third World Quarterly (Vol. 10, No. 2, Islam & Politics), 897-922 .

Usman, E. K. (2018). 50th Commemoration of Jabidah Massacre marked Sunday on Corregidor Islan. Balitang MLO, 4-9.


Image: Hotel ruins in Corregidor Island by Nursidar Pascual Mukattil

Nabeelah T. Abdulwahab, is a meliorist, a shameless abliguritionist & a blatant sapiosexual. She is a Filipino by blood, Moro by heart, Muslimmah by soul.


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