Vol. III, No. 297 A Publication of the Mindanao News and Information Cooperative Center 19 March 2005
MY, MY, MY MARAWI: Jabidah and Bicutan By Samira Gutoc-Tomawis / 18 March 2005
MARAWI CITY — Today is a day history has ignored. The so-called Bangsamoro day, March 18, when Jabidah or Oplan Merdeka happened. Young Muslim army recruits were training in Corregidor in 1968 allegedly to attack Sabah. But then they refused and almost 20 of them were shot at gunpoint.
Lone survivor Jibin Arula swam to nearby islands to seek refuge. He lived to speak and boy what a heyday media had in capturing this poor Tausug’s sentiments of being a pawn.
Rallies led by intellectuals of different tribes — Nur Misuari (a fellow Tausug to the victims), Macapanton Abbas and their colleagues — were organized in Manila to condemn the incident. Even then Senator Benigno Aquino, the symbol of the anti-martial law sentiment, took the cudgel against the military and then President Ferdinand Marcos.
Moro historians see Jabidah as a trigger event that led to the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the formalization of a modern Muslim revolutionary front in the Philippines.
Decades later, another incident – the jailbreak in Bicutan speaks of the same tensions between elements of the Muslim sector and the security authorities. Mostly from Sulu and the islands, the detainees were in prison for so-called links to terrorism and helping Nur Misuari in his renewed call for rebellion in 2003.
Opao, more than 70 years of age was one of them. More than four kids were below 18 years old and the rest were in their mid 20s and 30s. I met these detainees in a fact-finding visit with Muslim lawyers and medical professionals to the heavily guarded quarters years back. I wonder if Opao and the kids were killed too. There’s not much way of knowing since media has not reported the names of the people killed (or did I miss it).
The same holds true for Jabidah Massacre – the names are not listed in our archives (since obviously the 1968 incident is not written about anyway).
Opao and the kids denied being terrorists or being ASG. One of the kids, a student of a local high school said he was picked up while on the phone in a restaurant in Sulu. He was supposed to be on his way to school but he wasn’t even able to inform his family he was to be detained. One father said he let himself be arrested in exchange for his son since the family needed the son more in Sulu.
The interviewees looked like any normal Tausug I have met. They were normal meaning they were less politically motivated unlike the converted and closeted member of a terror group.
Many had no lawyers since most were poor or with average income. It was also too costly for their relatives from the islands to come in Manila to see them. Thus, one lawyer representing some of the detainees said she couldn’t even have documents attesting to their innocence since logistical requirements for interviewing witnesses and recopying documents were not available.
The detainees’ representative also complained that they wanted to be able to go out of their quarter even if only on Fridays when they pray as one congregation and thus their appeal to the jail authorities.
Maybe this time, they were allowed to roam around since this explains the jail incident. I wouldn’t know. It was said that many of the detainees had not even had their day in court. Worse, many had no charges yet filed against them.
As I was helping facilitate an ARMM Health Planning in a posh hotel in Manila, I couldn’t help being emotional over news reports of the violence and then deaths in the Bicutan jail. Were those who hadn’t even had trials included in the deaths? Were negotiations exhausted to prevent the violence? What led to such outbreak of violence? Was it true Global, Kosovo and the leg-disabled Robot had things to expose?
Some Tausug and Samal health professionals felt it was a set-up. Some called it murder and even massacre. And these were professionals speaking. What more would ordinary Muslims without media access say? Would they also hate the police and say this was the usual double standard used?
Many questions. Many a room for dialogue. Certainly media has much to do in seeking truths and bringing trust especially from Muslims, who feel they are victims and that this is the usual scapegoat method on so-called terrorists, who have not been proven so.
Christian friends ask, what do you think of the Bicutan incident? Certainly sad and bad. I pray there would be no bombings of public places. No paranoia raised, no retaliations sought. I don’t know, the future is unclear.
(My, My, My Marawi is Samira Gutoc-Tomawis’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Samira describes herself as a “freelance writer, peace advocate, artist-wannabe, co-convenor of the Young Moro Professionals Network, currently writing a book on militarism in the Philippines and also MindaNews’ correspondent in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur.” You can reach her at email@example.com.)
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The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip on March 26th 2005