Massacre of 1,000 in mosque recalled
PALIMBANG, Sultan Kudarat—The story is written in the blood that had splattered all over the floor of the Tacbil Mosque in Barangay Malisbong here, where more than 1,000 male residents were shot dead after they were taken by soldiers and militias on Sept. 24, 1974.
The shoreline villages of Malisbong, Kolong-Kolong and Tran in Palimbang (then part of South Cotabato province) were scenes of intense fighting that saw the government sustaining six months of attacks on guerrillas of the Moro National Liberation Front.
Ground assaults had been backed by air strikes and naval artillery.
Male residents were rounded up and kept inside the Tacbil Mosque, after the 15th Infantry Battalion received intelligence report that rebel forces had occupied a predominantly Christian village of Maasim to prevent government forces from advancing northward to Malisbong.
The intelligence report proved false, but two suspected members of the short-lived Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM)—brothers Ali and Mambatawan Mamalumpong—were arrested and never seen alive again.
It was said that militiamen took them to Maasim, cooked and ate their internal organs.
Residents said human bones were found around the mosque’s premises and were buried in common graves.
Archaeological experts from the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights (UNHCHR) had confirmed this story, finding human bones in shallow graves or beneath thick vegetation, said Ustadz Andaman Dimalao, one of the imams of the now historic mosque.
Dimalao said among those killed here were Imam Galansang, Imam Mamansual and Imam Taguranao, who were from Lanao del Sur province.
In 2009, skeletons of a woman and her baby were found near a riverbank. They were identified by relatives as those of Undang Labing, who tried to flee the hostilities, carrying her child in a malong slung on her shoulder.
She was shot by soldiers who mistook her for a guerrilla.
Her baby lived, but not for long, dying of hunger as Labing was no longer able to feed the infant.
Thong Sapal, village chair of Barangay Pinol, lost his father, Randam Sapal, in the carnage, popularly known as the Malisbong Massacre.
Hell in ship
Thousands of women and children were taken to a naval ship anchored near shore. Many of the children died of hunger, Dimalao said.
Dimalao, who lost his father in the mosque massacre, said women and children were kept inside the navy ship for a day.
The civilians were transferred later to three barges that had brought in relief good donations, according to lawyer Simeon Datumanong, who was then Maguindanao governor.
Stories about sexual abuse of women aboard the ship had been told.
In an eyewitness account given to the Commission on Human Rights, the late Wahida Kasim said she was within hearing distance of a ranking navy officer, who was apparently arguing over two-way radio with a fellow officer, telling the other officer that the order was “leave no one alive there.”
By Kasim’s reckoning, if the navy did not take the children and women on board, none would have been left alive to tell the story of the Malisbong Massacre.
Residents recalled that the arrested male residents were herded like animals, and were initially killed in batches of five to 10 men outside the mosque.
Soldiers had been told that guerrillas are going to attack, prompting an order to the Army “to reposition and “leave no one there (mosque) alive.” Nash B. Maulana, Inquirer Mindanao
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