Remembering the Atrocious Manili Massacre

“The outstanding feature of the Manili massacre was its meaninglessness.  There were no big political or religious issue at stake, no significant personality clash, no prospect of commercial gain for any party.”

Thus, T. J. S. George wrote in his book, ‘Revolt in Mindanao:  The Rise of Islam in Philippine Politics.”

George was then the editor of Asiaweek in Hongkong.

The Manili massacre occurred inside a mosque in Barangay Manili, Carmen, North Cotabato on June 19, 1971.  At least 79 Muslims (Moros) – men, women, children and elderly – were mercilessly killed by the Ilaga terror gang allegedly backed by the now defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC).

One of the women, a teenager, was raped before she was killed in a nearby house. 

The residents of Manili were called for a meeting by some Christian leaders inside the mosque that fateful morning.  Most of them did not have any hint that something tragic was about to happen to them.

When the PC troops and the Ilaga members arrived, they demanded that the residents surrender their firearms.  The residents asserted that they could not surrender a firearm since they did not have any.

It was then that the murderers shot dead the community leader, Hajji Yusof Nagle, at close range outside the mosque. Afterward, they lobbed grenades to the people inside.

The Manili massacre was just one of the atrocities perpetrated against the Moros at that time that alarmed them and their leaders.

On July 21, 1971, concerned Moro politicians and religious leaders including groups of Moro nongovernment organizations, intellectuals, businessmen and students issued a manifesto, a part of which read:

“We urge the Catholic hierarchy and other Christian groups to exercise their moral and spiritual leadership to appeal to their co-religionists to respect Islam and Muslims as the basis for peace and harmony.  We appeal to all progressive and well-meaning Christians to exert their efforts in bringing about unity in order to prevent the disintegration of the nation . . . . If we shall not get justice thru a peaceful and legal means – we hereby pledge today before God that despite our present personal positions, we shall do our utmost to preserve our community and land.  Toward this end we are willing and ready to sacrifice our worldly possessions and even our lives as our forebears have done before us in defense of freedom and Islam.” 

When the great Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, learned about the apparent genocidal campaign against the Moros, he sent assistance for the Moro refugees and later on even military and diplomatic support.

The survivors and the relatives of the atrocious Manili massacre are still awaiting justice.

They pin their hopes in the possible establishment of the National Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission for the Bangsamoro (NTJRCB) which will address the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people, correcting historical injustices, and addressing human rights violations and marginalization through land disposition.