[THIS is the third 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. President Marcos was excoriated by local detractors, international commentators and human rights activists. The fictional “Jabidah Massacre” was a major element in the eruption of the Muslim insurgency in Mindanao.]
Bon Voyage — To Where?
This is their other badge. (He shows another badge). It shows a crescent moon and a star — and it has an Arabic word. The Arabic word says, “Selamat Jalan,” or “Bon Voyage.” I wonder where these bold people are going?
This is the Ranger patch (he shows the patch) we discovered on the island. And this, Mr. President, is their ring (he shows a ring). It is a solid ring with a skull engraved with the crossbones.
These, Mr. President, are the distinguishing marks of the Jabidahs in and off uniform. In other words, they were given all the unorthodox uniforms, all the languages of signs, all the emblems and the rings, all that goes into esprit de corps, all the marks of the Gestapo and the SS of Hitler.
And the recruits went through all the phases of their rigid and rigorous training schedules because they had been led to believe they had a cause worth dying for.
The entire operation had a cover, of course. All officers were supposedly “Civil Affairs Officers” and the boys were supposedly being trained to man the various civic action centers to be established by President Marcos in every provincial capital of the country.
The boys were taught how to survive in the jungles without food and clothing. They called this survival training.
They were taught how to kill in the most bizarre way. In effect, they went through the training of Fleming’s James Bond. And after their training, they were to join an elite presidential force, a presidential force licensed to kill.
Secrecy was supposed to be the hallmark of the organization. And regular PC troopers assigned in Sulu were told to keep off the Jabidah area.
But this turned out to be a mockery.
Everyone in the Sulu isles knew exactly what was going on inside Camp Sophia. Major Martelino, after two drinks, spoke freely of his grand plan to “liberate” an area with his Jabidahs. And he always boasted the faithful would be rewarded with free land.
The Jabidahs were linked directly with Malacañang and the Infrastructure Operation Center at Camp Aguinaldo.
A look at the sophisticated gadgets in the radio room of Camp Sophia revealed that, aside from the regular radio units of the military establishment that linked laterally with other military units, Camp Sophia was supplied with a costly transceiver set — a Collins single-side band, better known to radio ham operators as a “KMW-2.” This is one of the more expensive transceiver sets available in the market, with a range that can cover half the globe, given a good antenna.
North vs. South
The camp was made of makeshift twigs and the bunks were made of ipil-ipil to simulate living conditions in the jungle. The recruits were divided into two groups called the Subangan and the Sadlupan groups. (These are Tausug words for “north” and “south”.)
Recruitment began in September and ended sometime in the middle of December last year.
Then on December 30, the recruits, numbering some 135, were told to board a Philippine Navy vessel, the RP-68, or “RPS Mindoro,” and were ferried to their new camp on Corregidor island. The Jabidahs landed on Corregidor on January 3.
Shortly before the Jabidahs landed on Corregidor, a top-level team of defense officials led by then Defense Undersecretary Manuel Syquio and Brig. Gen. Romeo Espino, commander of the Philippine Army, inspected the campsite. The old Corregidor hospital was cordoned off and declared a restricted area.
The Jabidahs were to stay inside the bombed-out hospital for the remainder of their training.
Some of the late recruits were airlifted from Sanga-Sanga to Nichols Air Base and later transferred to Corregidor.
The early days of the recruits on Corregidor proved thrilling.
The boys reported to their parents back in Sulu — and I have many letters to prove this — that their training was as exciting as it was exacting. But they all looked forward to the day when they would be inducted as regular Philippine Army troopers.
Jungle training of the special forces continued.
The recruits were marched into the Corregidor jungles for weeks on survival training. The boys took every phase of the rigorous work with aplomb.
But then, towards the fourth week of February, the Muslim boys started becoming restless.
Since their arrival on Corregidor, they had not been paid their allowances of P50 a month. Some of the married recruits wanted to send money to their folks in Sulu.
So on February 25 or 26, the recruits, mostly from the Tawi-Tawi area, signed a petition addressed to President Marcos demanding their delayed pay of two months and an improvement in their living quarters, food and clothing. They coupled this petition with a prayer that the President visit them, inasmuch as they were supposed to be his own personal special forces.
End of Part 3. To be continued with Part 4 tomorrow and Parts 5 and 6 in succeeding days.