A story of Martial law
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - September 24, 2020 - 12:00am

In a book Lee Kuan Yew wrote, there is one part that is interesting reading. He has different views on other countries which include the Philippines. One of his comments is about Philippine culture. He wrote: “The difference lies in the culture of the Filipino people. It is a soft and forgiving culture. Only in the Philippines could a leader like Ferdinand Marcos who pillaged his country for over 20 years, still be considered for a national burial.

“Insignificant amounts of the loot have been recovered, yet his wife and children were allowed to return and engage in politics. They supported the winning presidential and congressional candidates with their considerable resources and reappeared in the political and social limelight after the 1998 election that returned President Joseph Estrada. General Fabian Ver, Marcos’s commander-in-chief who had been in charge of security when Aquino was assassinated, had fled the Philippines together with Marcos in 1986. When he died in Bangkok, the Estrada government gave the general military honors at his burial.“

Lee Kuan Yew quoted a Philippine newspaper article: “Ver, Marcos and the rest of the official family plunged the country into two decades of lies, torture and plunder. Over the next decade Marcos’s cronies and immediate family would tiptoe back into the country, one by one – always to the public’s revulsion and disgust, though they showed that there was nothing that hidden money and thick hides could not withstand.”

He then added: “Some Filipinos write and speak with passion, if they could get their elite to share their sentiments and act, what could they not have achieved?”

This is one of the few times I can partially agree with Lee Kuan Yew. However, I do not necessarily agree that we have a “soft” culture. My personal observation is that massive resources are being spent to try and rewrite Philippine history.

The Germans have apologized for the Holocaust. Even the Japanese have apologized and paid reparations for their war crimes during the Second World War. But the Marcoses and former senior members of their martial law regime have never even acknowledged their responsibility for the numerous human rights violations and for turning the second most prosperous country in Asia into the “sick man” of Asia.

In order to fully appreciate the irony of the unapologetic Bongbong Marcos chairing the hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, we need to recall an event now known as the Jabidah Massacre which happened in Corregidor on March 18, 1968. This massacre served as the impetus and rallying cry that started the present-day Muslim insurgencies in the southern Philippines.

The Jabidah Massacre was the massacre of several Muslims by the Philippine government. This incident was the offshoot of the dispute revolving around the territory of Sabah, between the Philippines and Malaysia. Marcos had planned a guerrilla-type operation against the Muslims of Malaysia by training local Philippine Muslims to fight in Sabah. However, after the Muslim recruits discovered the true intentions of their group’s formation, they refused to go against fellow Muslims. Under the watch of Marcos and Ver, the Philippine government slaughtered the Muslims and tried to keep the whole incident a secret.

The best description of the actual events is in a chapter in the book “Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao” written by Marites Danguilan Vitug and Glenda M. Gloria, first published in 2000. Here is one part from that book where they quoted the story of one survivor, Jibin Arula:

“We went to the airport on a weapons carrier truck, accompanied by 13 (non-Muslim) trainees armed with M-16 and carbines. When we reached the airport, our escorts alighted ahead of us. Then Lt. Eduardo Nepomuceno ordered us to get down from the truck and line up. [Nepomuceno was later killed in Corregidor under mysterious circumstances.] As we put down our bags, I heard a series of shots. Like dominoes, my colleagues fell. I got scared. I ran and was shot in my left thigh. I did not know that I was running towards a mountain… By 8 a.m., I was rescued by two fishermen on Caballe Island near Cavite.”

When then senator Ninoy Aquino first publicly exposed the plot leading to the Jabidah Massacre, Marcos and his henchmen denied the killings ever happened, and the exposé was condemned as part of a grand plot by the opposition to simply discredit the Marcos administration.

After the massacre, one of its main perpetrators, Rolando Abadilla, became head of Marcos’s Military Intelligence Security Group. He gained notoriety by causing the arrest, disappearances and killings of many political activists during martial law.

It was only in 2013 that the Philippine government, under PNoy, finally and officially acknowledged that the Jabidah Massacre actually took place.

Samuel Huntington wrote a book called “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,” in which he said that conflicts between the major civilizations – Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Confucian – were inevitable. But I continue to hope that in spite of the ironic twists and turns in Philippine history, this “inevitability” will not happen in the Philippines.

We have a culture that is based on strong family ties and spiritual values. We can be forgiving and tolerant. But history has shown that we, as a people, can rise and confront great challenges with courage, fortitude and unity.

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An Invitation for Young Writers, ages 8-15:

Young Writers’ Hangout on Sept. 26, 2-3 p.m.: Poetry Writing with guest poet Mookie Katigbak Lacuesta.

Zoom, write and celebrate with us as we mark our 7th birthday this month. Contact writethingsph@gmail.com. 0945.2273216

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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