The Malisbong Case

The Tacbil Mosque 

   During the Holy Month of Ramadan on September 23, 1974, coastal villagers in barangay Malisbong Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat were busy doing their usual activities. It was a sunny peaceful morning when helicopters suddenly appeared in the sky. “We came here for peace not war!” A message printed in a leaflet dropped from a helicopter above. A minute later, naval boats, armor trucks and air force jets dominated the area. On September 24, 1974 the place was declared “No Man’s Land.” This incident is buried along with the butchered innocent civilians who experienced intense militarization during Ferdinand Marcos’ pacification campaigns in the south. Nearly 2,000 Maguindanaons butchered at the site of the infamous Tacbil mosque. Up until now the evidence is still standing. It serves as a proof of the cruel incident that left a stain in the history of the Bangsamoro.

   Malisbong Massacre is one of the massacre cases in Mindanao that still yearns for justice. For 41 years, the survivors are not at peace because for them justice is not yet served. Although many groups and organizations have visited the area to conduct fact finding mission, no concrete action has been made for the case. Just like other massacre cases in Mindanao, Malisbong massacre remains unresolved. 

   Malisbong massacre is one of the cases that we have featured in a documentary film about transitional justice of Moro people in Mindanao. The Transitional Justice for Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) appointed us to make the documentary film. We visited places in Mindanao to interview Moros and Lumads who experienced marginalization through land dispossession, historical injustices and human rights violations. 

   As the survivors recount, soldiers and officers of the 15th and 19th IB carried out search and destroyed missions around the coastal villages in Palimbang. Throughout Palimbang the thundering sound of bombs and canons were heard. Lootings and destruction of properties were rampant. Men, women and children were separated. Most of the men were sent to the mosque while women and children were forced to board the naval boats (barges) and made float for days under the scorching heat of the sun without food and water. Some who were lucky to escape the raids went to the mountains and hid for days until the conflict was over. 

   Most of the men in the community were brutally shot inside the Tacbil mosque. The military raped most of the women in the area. Some escaped while others were killed. Children died not only in bullets but also in starvation. From the houses, mosques and in the seashore, dead bodies were scattered everywhere. It was a total chaos. It was hell on earth as they describe. The survivors cannot believe that they surpassed the horrific event created by the military. 

   Blood stains and bullet holes are still evident inside the Tacbil mosque. As you would enter the mosque, you would imagine the brutal incident. It gives chills to the bones knowing the fact that the victims were buried a few steps outside the mosque. Even though many groups have been offering to reconstruct the dilapidated mosque, the residents refuse to say yes. For them it’s one way of destroying the memories of their loved ones. The Tacbil mosque serves as the remnant of that brutal incident. It becomes more painful because the Philippine Government or The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) still denies it and refuse to apologize to the victims. 

   The residents are still trying to live a normal life; trying to move on even though the justice that they have wanted is elusive. When you immerse yourself in this case, your mind starts to wander trying to reconnect in the past to understand it. Different emotions would resurface trying to uncover the buried incident. As you submerge yourself, you would feel the need to share this story to those who does not know it. 

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