By Julius D. Mariveles

WITH seemingly unassailable certitude, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano proclaimed on Thursday what he deems to be the reason why peace has eluded Mindanao for ages.

“Kung hindi kayo gumamit ng dahas, peaceful ngayon ang Mindanao,” said Cayetano, his voice angry and eyes fixed on Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the peace panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). By Cayetano’s hypothesis, the MILF is entirely to blame for the lack of peace in Mindanao. (If you had not used force, Mindanao would still be peaceful today.)

It was not, to be sure, a cozy conversation over coffee. Cayetano had chastised Iqbal during the live telecast of the Senate’s hearing on the recent firefight between the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force and the MILF in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The clash killed 44 SAF troopers, 18 MILF rebels, and eight civilians, and left scores more wounded.

Yet before Iqbal could respond, Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, retorted: “It seems as if that everything bad that is happening in Mindanao is being blamed on the Bangsamoro,” Hataman said, his voice breaking at one point.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano | Photo from Alan Peter Cayetano's Facebook page

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano | Photo from Alan Peter Cayetano’s Facebook page

Cayetano followed with a mouthful of bolder conclusions. The MILF, he decried, had negotiated for peace “from the barrel of the gun.” But he explained, too, that he did not mean to say that only Muslims are terrorists because there are “more Christian terrorists than Muslim terrorists.”

And when he finally had a chance to speak, Iqbal recounted a series of massacres of Muslim Filipinos that he said prompted Muslim Filipinos to organize the MILF.

“Massacres and rights violations took place through the decades. This is why the MILF was established – to fight for independence… we organized dahil hindi patas ang laban (we organized because it was not a fair fight),” Iqbal said.

Was Mindanao indeed a peaceful place before the MILF came into existence?

Iqbal has, in fact, authored a book “A Nation Under Endless Tyranny,” that outlines the historical narrative of conflict and violence in Mindanao.

In it, Iqbal narrated the atrocities that the Ilaga (literally, “rat” in the Hiligaynon language), a group of Christians, reportedly carried out against Moro communities. He wrote under the pseudonym Salah Jubair.

The Ilaga had also been referred to as the “Ilonggo Landgrabbers,” or the wave of migrants that resettled in Mindanao through the years.

From 1970 to 1971, the Ilaga (translated to mean “Ilonggo Landgrabbers”) launched a series of 21 massacres that left 518 people dead, 184 injured, and 243 houses burned down, according to Marjanie Salic Macasalong in her dissertation titled “The Liberation Movements in Mindanao: Root Causes ad Prospects for Peace.”

The supposed Ilaga “infestation” is considered in historical annals to be just the second trigger to the growth of separatist movements in Mindanao. The first was, of course, the Jabidah Massacre of March 18,1968.

The incident resulted in the death of 64 Muslim trainees of the Philippine Army that had trained for what was called “Project Merdeka,” an attempt by the Philippine government to destabilize and eventually take over by invasion the resource-rich island of Sabah in Malaysia, Macasalong said, citing the book “Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao” by journalists Marites D. Vitug and Glenda M. Gloria.

The Muslim trainees backed out upon knowing that the real mission was to invade Sabah and not – as they had been initially told — to fight Communist insurgents. Because “Project Merdeka” was a top military and political secret, senior officers of the Armed Forces who were in charge of the operation had reportedly decided to execute all the trainees rather than expose the operation.

Macasalong’s dissertation was submitted in February 2013 for a Masters Degree in Islamic and Other Civilization Studies at the International Islamic University in Malaysia.

But Macasalong had more data to offer. “According to another source,” she wrote, “the number of Moro victims killed by the Army, (Philippine Constabulary), and Ilaga reached as high as 10,000 lives.”

“In addition, thousands of Moro houses, mosques, and Arabic schools were destroyed. This made the Muslims paranoid and even more distrustful of Christians as a whole,” the study said.

And in the face of the violence, what did the national government do?

“Instead of quelling the atrocities, the government helped and gave shelter to Feliciano Lucas, the prime suspect and leader of the Ilaga. Alias ‘Commander Toothpick’, Lucas was reported to have been given a red-carpet reception at the Malacañang Palace in Manila when he ‘surrendered’ to President Marcos,” Macasalong wrote.

“Strangely enough,” she noted, “this prime suspect was released in his hometown with military escorts in order to protect him from being killed or arrested because of the warrants issued to him. Instead of being punished, the Ilaga leader was, according to the late Congressman Salipada Pendatun, ‘knighted’ and ‘bade to go back to his kingdom to bear more arms and commit further depredations.”

The table below shows some of the massacres reportedly committed by the Ilaga. Some of the attacks were carried out simultaneously, and others, only a day apart.

Ilaga TableThe Manili Massacre had the highest death toll — 70 civilians, including women and children, killed. It was “one of the most horrible massacres” carried out by the Ilaga.

Teng Addie Nagli, one of the surviving victims was a seven-year-old child when it happened. Macasalong quoted his recollection of the event in her thesis: “Wth armed men no longer around, (I) saw all the dead lying in a pool of ankle-deep blood. There was a child with a hack wound on the head; an old man with a dagger still stuck to his right waist.”

“This was (when) I cried,” Teng Addie Nagli recalled. “I’ll never forget what I saw till the day I die. Even up to now when I think about it, my heart tightens. It makes me want to take revenge because the wounds of the incident are still here.”

Forty-seven years after the Jabidah Massacre, the Mamasapano clash occurred, prompting quick jabs by Senator Cayetano at “Muslim terrorists” and the MILF as the reason why peace has eluded Mindanao.

The 44 SAF troopers who died in the clash have been justly and deservedly honored by a grateful nation. But in the remembering, the civilians and the MILF fighters who died, too, have been forgotten somehow.

It was only two weeks and four public hearing days later that public attention has been focused on the other casualties of the clash – 18 MILF fighters and eight civilians, including a girl of 8 and a farmer who left house early to charge his cellphone battery.

The exchange of fire between policemen and the MILF killed eight-year-old Sarah Panunggulon, according to ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman.

Barudin Langalan, 22, Muhammad Amblang, 30, a farmer, and five other civilians died in the clash, too.

Langalan was found with his hands tied, dead along with the SAF troopers. His wife said he was on his way to the public market early morning of January 25 to charge his cellphone. Hataman said it appeared that the SAF troopers had arrested Langalan, when the latter came out of his hut early that fateful day of the Mamasapano clash. — PCIJ, February 2015

2 Responses to Mindanao: A memory of massacres


The Legally Inclined

February 14th, 2015 at 12:08 pm

I n the same hearing and with the same “seemingly unassailable certitude”, Mr. Cayetano also claimed Nelson Mandela did not take up arms. Yet, even the Nobel Peace Prize Committee admits on its website (without of course detailing) that –
““Mandela became convinced that armed struggle was inevitable. Inspired by the guerrilla wars in Algeria and Cuba, he organized a military underground movement that engaged in sabotage.”
“After the banning of the ANC in 1960, Nelson Mandela argued for the setting up of a military wing within the ANC. In June 1961, the ANC executive considered his proposal on the use of violent tactics and agreed that those members who wished to involve themselves in Mandela’s campaign would not be stopped from doing so by the ANC.”



February 16th, 2015 at 12:30 pm

I think cayetano forgot his history that mindanao was already having arm struggle since the spanish time

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