President Benigo Aquino III is slated to lead on Monday the commemoration of the infamous Jabidah Massacre on Corregidor.
It was his father, the late Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., who delivered a privilege speech on the Jabidah massacre in 1968 that sparked the Moro revolt.
Preparations for the commemoration have been kept under wraps, with Malacañang tightlipped on the President’s presence at the ceremony.
Asked at a briefing if the event had any significance, especially in light of the standoff in Sabah, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said: “At this point, I’m not ready to comment on that particular issue. I will check if that has been confirmed and, well, perhaps tomorrow or on Sunday we can already talk about the event.”
She also refused to comment when asked the President’s reasons for leading the commemoration of the massacre, which could resurrect in the national consciousness the memory of the merciless killing of Muslim youths during the Marcos administration.
“I cannot at this point speak of the schedule of the President on Monday, primarily because it has not been cascaded, or it has not been confirmed with us. But I’ll make the inquiries after our briefing and I will give you an update,” she said.
Sources told the Inquirer that Mr. Aquino will honor the memory and heroism of the slain Muslim youths by visiting the Garden of Peace, a memorial to the victims who died on an abandoned airstrip on Corregidor 45 years ago.
The Garden of Peace is a way to honor them, said the organizers, adding that the garden symbolizes that both Muslims and Christians together are one in their desire for true, lasting and genuine peace, especially in Mindanao.
The Corregidor Foundation Inc. has included the site of the Jabidah Massacre among the tourist spots on the island.
The Muslim recruits were brought to Corregidor on Jan. 3, 1968, for training in guerrilla tactics in preparation for “Operation Merdeka,” a top-secret plan of the Marcos administration to invade Sabah, which the Philippines claimed was part of its territory.
Their training officers fired on them before dawn on March 18 after the trainees, belatedly learning of the covert plan, refused to take part in the mission.
Only one trainee survived to tell the tale, Jibin Arula, who reportedly died in a vehicular accident in Trece Martires, Cavite, in 2010.
That singular event triggered the Moros to press for independence in May 1968 and take up arms in 1972, the year the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was founded by then University of the Philippines professor Nur Misuari who had vowed to fight for the establishment of a Bangsamoro republic.
Part of peace process
Remembering the sacrifices of the victims is “part of the peace process” with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (which took up the fight after the MNLF signed a peace deal), said Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras.
Asked about the completion of the peace agreement with the MILF, Almendras said in an interview that the government, through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, and the MILF leadership continued to lay the groundwork for the signing of a final peace agreement in 2015.
“Yes, we’re all ready. That’s why this all part of it [for the] healing of wounds,” said Almendras, when asked the significance of the President’s presence in Corregidor on Monday.
He said the Aquino administration had to honor the memory of the slain Muslim youths “because we’re trying to bring peace” to Muslim Mindanao.
“Of course, for many years, the Muslims felt bad about it, that it wasn’t even recognized. Sometimes, when you’re trying to create peace, you want to settle things that were (left unresolved),” he said.