Flashbacks on Sabah.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)

Manila Bulletin, August 31, 2002 | Go to article overview

Flashbacks on Sabah.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)


IT was during the Marcos administration that a plan was hatched to use force to regain Sabah for the Philippines, but this was bungled with the socalled Jabidah massacre on Corregidor Island. Jabidah was the name given to the operation whereby Muslim Commandos were going to be trained so that they could be secretly introduced into Sabah, as the spearhead of a military force.

In charge of the project was a swashbuckling and boastful army colonel named Eduardo Martelino. What we know is that the trainees mutinied because their pay had been apparently squandered and the military force in charge retaliated by shooting some of them to death. One of the trainees, named Jarula, escaped the massacre by swimming ashore from Corregidor to Cavite where he was rescued by Senator Justiniano Montano and delivered to the Senate for an inquiry. Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. went to town with an expose based on Jarula's testimony. At that time Aquino was trying to build a case for the theory that Marcos was preparing to declare martial law through a plan called "Oplan Sagittarius."

Jabidah inflamed public opinion in both the Philippines and Malaysia. According to intelligence reports, the Malaysian special branch (counterintelligence) retaliated by helping inflame the Moro separatist movement (the Moro National Liberation Front) whose leaders were frequently seen being hosted in Kuala Lumpur's first-class hotels.

It appeared that a war party on Sabah was collecting around President Marcos, who was developing a Napoleonic complex. Later, Martelino disappeared without a trace. A report circulated in military circles that he had been captured by Malaysian intelligence, tortured and executed. Up to now, the public does not know what happened to Martelino.

But Jabidah demonstrated the folly of a war-like attitude towards Sabah. Neither does political bravado substitute for a foreign policy. It is said that war is too important to leave to the hands of generals.

In 1993, it was a general, President Fidel V. Ramos, who decided to open a new era of friendship and trust between the Philippines and Malaysia. He was going to Kuala Lumpur to meet with Prime Minister Mohamad Mahathir and thought the main irritant, the Sabah claim, should be put in the backburner so the two governments could proceed to a new level of political and economic cooperation within the framework of ASEAN. …

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