It has been almost five decades since the Jabidah Massacre left its mark on the Bangsamoro consciousness, a mark akin to a wound that has never fully healed as its scab is picked over and over again with every other act of injustice committed against our people.
Among the Bangsamoro, the story of Jabidah needs no introduction. In our minds and hearts, there is no question that it happened and that it is true. In our history, there is no question about its rightful place in the long narrative of our struggle for self-determination.
But for many other Filipinos, the reality of the Jabidah Massacre remains either unknown or denied. In the midst of all the unknowns and denials, this is what we know: During the Marcos regime, Bangsamoro men were taken to Corregidor from the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-tawi, and were recruited to be part of an elite commando group called Jabidah. This group has been tasked to carry out Operation Merdeka, an operation that involved destabilizing Sabah, allowing the Philippines to take over the area.
One night, their military handlers began to take them by the dozen to a remote airstrip. Here our brothers were executed as they were shot with machine guns, making sure not one of them survived. They were indiscriminately shot at and summarily executed, after being treated unfairly throughout the duration of their supposed training.
The number of Bangsamoro men killed ranges from eleven to the thousands. No one knows for sure. This is because our history knows not the exact numbers or dates, because our history has always been subjected to denial and erasure.
After so many of our communities have been burned down, so many of our families torn apart by war, and so many of our children growing up while fighting injustice, the murder of our brothers who wanted only to fight for our country was the final straw. Jabidah became the spark which started the flames of our struggle.
It is our history that speaks of our pain and healing, of conflict and survival, of losing and seeking our rightful place in this country. It is a history that has been seared onto our minds and our hearts by the fire of our long and difficult struggle, because no there is no other way for us to remember. Today we continue this difficult task of remembering, a task that is necessary in the greater struggle for our rights as Bangsamoros, a struggle that we wage for lasting peace and genuine justice. Never again will we allow our people be hidden by the shadows of the past, and we will never forget our people whose lives depend so much on peace and whose deaths strongly demand justice.