Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Shaming the republic

By Rod Kapunan
Part I
When Newsbreakcame out with an article dated March 18, 2013 to mark the 45th commemoration of the so–called “Jabida Massacre,” authors Marites Danguilan Vitug and Glenda M. Gloria claimed that at least 23 Muslim trainees were summarily gunned down.  Nobody asked where they got their story and what made them conclude that a massacre took place in Corregidor Island.  To them, destroying the image and memory of Marcos and the integrity of the Republic does not matter. All that is important is they succeed in ingratiating themselves to their foreign patrons. 
Maybe we can speculate, but when writing crosses the line of objectivity, speculation is automatically reduced to propaganda of the worst kind because the authors allowed themselves to be made accomplice to the shaming the Republic.   To quote their canard:   “Arula’s memory of this day remains vivid: We went to the airport on a weapons carrier truck, accompanied by 13 (non-Muslim) trainees with their 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 […].  As we put down our bags, I heard series of shots.  Like dominoes, my colleagues fell.  I got scared.  I ran and was shot at, in my left thigh.   I don’t know that I was running towards a mountain…By 8 am, I was rescued by two fishermen on Caballo Island, near Cavite.”       
A presidential helicopter swooped down on Corregidor shortly after the killings.  Officers and men belonging to the Army Special Forces leaped out of the aircraft and engaged in a clandestine cover-up mission to erase traces of the massacre.” 
When they landed, the teams of soldiers found burned bodies tied to trees, near the airstrip, on the island’s bottom side.  The order from Army chief Gen. Romeo Espino was to clean up the place and clear it of all debris.  From afternoon till sunset, they collected charred flesh and bones and wrapped them in dark colored ponchos.  They could not keep track of how many bodies were there.  They also picked up bullet shells lying on the airstrip.  The trainees had been shot before they were tied and burned.”    
At the crack of down the next day, they loaded the ponchos in the helicopter and flew over Manila Bay. They tied heavy stones to the ponchos before dumping them all into the sea.  The remains sank, weighed down by the stones.  The soldiers made sure nothing floated to the surface.”
One need not contradict that fantasy.  All that a reader should do is read the privilege speech made by Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. delivered on March 28, 1968 in the Senate Hall barely a week after the incident.  Compare Ninoy’s narrative of the events and their version.  To quote him:   “Jibin Arula, in his sworn statement, said that upon reaching the airstrip they were told to get off their weapons carrier.  They were told to form a line. 
With all the stored-up suspicion in mind, Jibin Arula must have thought that his time to be killed had come.
We can only conjecture at this point that happened.”
Arula must have made a dash for his life, thinking that they had been brought to the airstrip to be ‘slaughtered.’
“Told to halt by his escorts, he kept running.
His escorts shot him in the leg to force him to stop.
He kept going – and the rest is history.
What happened to his eleven companions?
Were they really ‘massacred’?
“Some say that when the firing started with Jibin Arula, his companions ducked.  So that Arula was correct when he said that he saw his companions fall to the ground.
But were they shot?  Or did they duck because of the firing?
The army says that the eleven are alive.  As soon as the army authorities produced the other eleven recruits, the sorry mess of Corregidor should find its end.   
“Meanwhile, in Jolo yesterday, I met the first batch of 24 recruits aboard RP-68.  This group was earlier reported missing or even worse, believed “massacred”.
William Patarasa, 16 years old, one of the leaders of the petitioners, in effect corroborated all the points raised by Jibin Arula.  But he denied knowledge of any massacre.”
Comparing the two versions of the story, one could say that even if Senator Aquino was motivated by his habit of making a political grandstanding, he nonetheless tried to verify the statement made by Arula by interviewing the trainees, and found out that indeed they were sent home to Jolo.   In the case of the two “seekers of the truth”, they came out with their own conclusions that several Muslim trainees were gunned down, tied their dead bodies to a treed, burned, and given the burial by dumping their charred remains at Manila Bay wrapped in ponchos and tied to big stones to make sure they will sink and forever forgotten by history. 
They committed the worst act of disinformation because they came out with a story that was meant to shame, embarrass, humiliate and put the republic in bad light.  They violated the sacred rule of journalism by maliciously and intentionally presenting to our people contemptible canard that our soldiers could commit such a heinous crime of killing supposedly one of their own.  To this day, the same investigative journalists had not come out with a single article telling our people how our badly injured Special Action Forces were finished off by the MILF rebels by shooting them on the head with a handgun.  As if to be proud of their dastardly crime, they had their act of brutality videoed and posted on the Internet for all of us to see.  All that is heard from them is that we approve the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to give peace a chance.
To make their canard sound savvy, the authors claim that it was from a Presidential helicopter that General Espino alighted and immediately the soldiers ordered to clear and clean the place of the debris.  They emphasized the word “Presidential” helicopter to insinuate that President Marcos had knowledge that a massacre would take place, and the visit by General  Romeo Espino was to make sure that the “order” was carried out to the letter. 
But in Ninoy’s own account, the alleged visit made by General Espino took place months before the alleged massacre, to quote him again:
Shortly before Jabidahs landed on Corregidor (in January 3), a top level team of defense officials led by then Defense Undersecretary Manuel Syquio and Brig. Gen. Romeo Espino, commander of the Philippine Army, inspected the campsite.  The old Corregidor hospital was cordoned off and declared a restricted area.”      
Ninoy never mentioned that the two defense officials came on board a Presidential helicopter or that their visit took place immediately after the alleged massacre to insinuate that Marcos have an advance knowledge of what happened, and that the surprise visit was to make sure the ghastly order was carried out.

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