[THIS is the fourth part of the “Jabidah! Special Forces of Evil?” privileged speech of the late Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr. He delivered it on March 28, 1968 in the Senate session hall to expose what he called “a sinister design of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos to invade Sabah and recover it for the Philippines from Malaysia. In the course of his expose the late father of President B. S. Aquino 3rd revealed that the so-called “Jabidah Massacre” of Muslim Tausug soldier trainees never happened. Even so, local detractors, international commentators and human rights activists excoriated President Marcos and the Philippine military. The fictional “Jabidah Massacre” was a major element in the eruption of the Muslim insurgency in Mindanao.
Major M, Not Mr. M
Instead of Mr. Marcos, Major Abdullatif Martelino showed up sometime on February 27. He told the boys that their pay was forthcoming and that if they would not be paid, they could resign and the government would send them back home.
Then, on March 3 or 4, Major Martelino called for the four Muslim leaders of the petition and he allegedly told them that they could go home ahead of the other boys who had petitioned President Marcos.
The four leaders were brought to Manila and never returned to Corregidor.
The boys became restive. They wanted to know what had happened to their four leaders. But they were simply told that their leaders had gone home ahead.
Suspicion that the four had been liquidated started to seep in, then gained momentum.
The petitioning recruits, now numbering 58, were confined to quarters and told to await transportation back to Sulu. As of March 1, all the petitioners were considered resigned from the Special Forces.
So, out of 135 who came from Simunul, 62 signed the petition. Of the 62, a total of 58 remained in camp as of March 1 — and they were considered resigned.
Then on March 16, some 24 recruits were told that a Philippine Navy boat was docking early that morning to ferry them back to Sulu. They gathered their personal belongings and shortly before dawn they were brought to the island pier. They boarded the RP-68, the same vessel that had brought them from Simunul earlier in January.
The remaining recruits, however, started to worry about the fate of their comrades. They doubted the assurances of their officers that the other boys had gone home.
And with some reason, it seems.
For, first, their four leaders had disappeared. They had not come back. And the recruits worried about these four, their four leaders.
Then 24 of their own brothers were taken out. Again, these did not return. Again, the remaining recruits worried. They worried some more.
Some feared their petitioning companions had been “massacred.”
Then, on March 18, another 12 recruits were told to prepare for home. At 2 a.m. on March 18, the second batch of 12 recruits left the campsite and was never heard from.
So now we have 24 recruits leaving on March 18, another group leaving on March 16 or March 17.
At 4 a.m. that same day, another batch of 12 recruits was transported to the Corregidor airstrip, purportedly for evacuation to Sulu. This batch, too, was never heard of, never heard from.
Jibin Arula, in his sworn statement, said that upon reaching the airstrip they were told to get off their weapons carrier. They were told to form a line.
They were now in civilian clothes and unarmed, while their escorts carried Armalites, automatic carbines, and other Special Forces weapons.
With all the stored-up suspicion in his mind, Jibin Arula must have thought that his time to be killed had come.
We can only conjecture at this point what happened.
Arula must have made a dash for his life, thinking that they had been brought to the airstrip for the “slaughter.”
Told to halt by his escorts, he kept running.
His escorts shot him in the leg to force him to stop.
He kept going — and the rest is his story.
But what happened to his eleven companions?
Were they really “massacred”?
Some say that when the firing started with Jibin Arula, his companions ducked. So that Arula was correct when he said that he saw his companions fall to the ground.
But were they shot? Or did they duck because of the firing?
The army says that the eleven are alive. As soon as the army authorities produce the other eleven recruits, the sorry mess of Corregidor should find its end.
However, if the Army cannot produce these men, the question will press: What happened to them? They, the army authorities, will have to stand the accusation of murder and maybe — even mass slaughter.
Aquino meets 24 wrongly reported missing and ‘massacred’
Meanwhile, in Jolo yesterday, I met the first batch of 24 recruits aboard RP-68. This group was earlier reported missing — or, even worse, believed “massacred.”
William Patarasa, 16 years old, one of the leaders of the petitioners, in effect corroborated all the points raised by Jibin Arula. But he denied knowledge of any massacre.
Like Jibin Arula, up to yesterday he claimed he had no knowledge of what had happened to their four leaders called by Major Martelino last March 3. He confirmed, though, the suspicion among the petitioners that the four had been “liquidated” by Major Martelino’s boys.
One of the leaders has since presented himself to army authorities.
This morning, The Manila Times, in its banner headline, quoted me as saying that I believed there was no mass massacre on Corregidor island.
And I submit it was not a hasty conclusion, but one borne out by careful deductions.
End of Part 4. Part 5 will come out this Sunday and Part 6, the conclusion, on Monday.