Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Rats Strike

The emergence of the Ilagas was attributed to threats posed by the MIM on the Christians in Cotabato. In the province at the time, there were reports of Moro youths undergoing guerrilla warfare training n Malaysia and several training camps in the province. As a result, Christians, who chose to stay and fight for everything they held dear, reportedly became the early pioneers of the Ilaga movement.
The word Ilaga is an llonggo or Visayan, term for "rat," that highly voracious creature that infests on our crops. How these "halfcrazed" or "mad killers," or what the regime preferred to call "fanatics," acquired the name or chose to be known by it is perhaps explained by the widespread proliferation of their gory activities on Mindanao. Other sources went further to decipher the name as an acronym for Ilonggo Land Grabbers Association. The final truth of the matter still remains to be seen, but in the absence of more solid evidence to the contrary the theory might as well stand. Initially, a simple folk leader, Feliciano Luces, was tagged as the Ilaga chief. Those who knew him well in Upi, Cotabato, could not help but wonder how a mild-mannered farmer of this town could become an overnight leader of an ultra-rightist Christian organization whose name brought fire and awe.
Early references to the name theorized that it referred to the voracious animals to exemplify the natural right of any man or community to legitimate self-defense. There were rumors and wild stories about the organization, all unsubstantiated at the time. But in July 1972, the Associated Press, an American wire service, reported that the Ilaga organization was the brainchild of seven Christian leaders of Cotabato. Later, in 1973, a group of students commissioned by the government reported that the llaga was founded in Cotabato City in September 1970 by Mayors Wenceslao de la Cerna of Alamada, Nicolas Dequina of Midsayap, Pacifico de la Cerna of Libungan, Bonifacio Tejada of Mlang, Conrado Lemana of Tulunan, Jose Escribano of Tacurong, Esteban Doruelo of Pigkawayan and PC Capt. Manuel Tronco of Upi, the overall commander. Being seven in all, they were thus called the "Magnificent Seven." Though a later recruit, Lt. Col. Carlos B. Cajelo, also an Ilonggo, who became Governor of Cotabato and later the Deputy Defense Minister for Civil Relations, was popularly believed as the real leader. He was perceived to have taken over the command discreetly from Manuel Tronco, a candidate for Mayor of Upi in 1971, when the latter was slain in an ambush in 1972 in Upi, Cotabato. Ex-Mayor Esteban Doruelo, then an assemblyman of LTP-12., was also assassinated on February 4, 1984 in Cotabato City for reasons believed linked to the founding of the Ilagas.
The Ilaga rampage started in the middle of 1970 barely a year-and-a-half before Pres. Ferdinand Marcos plunged the country into
Martial law on September 23, 1972. The first killing field was Upi, Cotabato the new home of Commander Feliciano Luces, alias "Toothpick." There he led a band of Tiruray tribesmen, who readily responded allegedly to settle an old score with the Maguindanaon Moros. 12 On March 22, 1970, Commander Toothpick and his band of so-called "fanatics," initiated, as their baptism of fire, an attack on an isolated Moro village, killing six people and burning several houses. They left behind their horrifying trademarks on the victims: cut ears, slashed nipples, plucked out eyes, and cross markings on the body. Members of the gang, mostly teenagers, were subjected to rigid initiation rituals and were required to wear amulets and other charms believed to have magical powers to ward off evil and harm. In the beginning, the Tirurays dominated the gang but, later on as other Ilaga units sprouted in other areas of Cotabato, Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and elsewhere, the movement was dominated by llonggos. Later, the Ilaga gangs acted as "storm troopers" for government troops when the Moros succeeded in putting up an effective defense. A pertinent article in one of the front-running Manila dailies had this to say this tie-up:
The list is long... but it can be compressed into one single horrifying theme -- a near absolute lawlessness armed and protected by... government officials and the military into remote corners of Mindanao to look for and kill... Muslim rebels, and whoever they believe to be their sympathizers.
The late Pres. Diosdado Macapagal had this to say in connection with the llaga Organization:
The political and short-sighted handling of Muslim problems under the Marcos reign reached a zenith when the authorities sanctioned and believably helped arm and Ilagas, an armed band of Christian Filipinos, who have waged an operation to kill Muslims. Reports of massacres both of Muslims and Christians in a mutual rampage of violence and killing as a result have considerable truth in them. Seeing the hand of the government in the organization and operations of the Ilagas, it is understandable that the Muslim Filipinos have entertained the belief that the administration is out to exterminate the Muslims.
Such belief no doubt has intensified Muslim insurgency.
The number of victims continued to increase as the PC-Ilaga, tandem mounted and widened its bloody sorties in the other provinces and towns outside of its original base of operations. Hardest hit by these depredations usually were isolated Moro villages.
So far, there is no formal research work conducted or made available that shows data on these Ilaga-related massacres, including the names of the victims, number of houses burned or destroyed, and other losses or damages. The following listing is not presumed to be complete but somehow efforts have been made to make the entries as detailed as possible."

Municipality/Province Year Dead Wounded HB
1. Upi, Cotabato Mar. 22,1970 Ud
2. Upi, Cotabato Sept. 10, 1970 Uk Uk
3. Polomolok, South Cotabato Aug. 10, 1970 Uk Uk
4. Alamada, Cotabato Dec. 3, 1970 13 Uk Uk
5. Midsayap, Cotabato Dec.16,1970 18 Uk Uk
6. Ahan, Datu Piang, Cotabato Dec. 21, 1970 Uk 147
7. Bagumbayan, Cot.Jan. 1, 1971 12 Uk Uk
18. Alamada, Cotabato Jan. 17, 1971 73 Uk 36
9. Carmen, Cotabato Apr. 6,1971 18 25 Uk
10. Manili, Carmen, Cotabato June 19, 1971 70 17 Uk
11. Wao, Lanao del SurJuly 4,1971 Ud Uk 60
12. Buldon, Cotabato Aug. 5, 1971 14 Uk Uk
13. Wao, Lanao del Sur Aug. 5, 1971 36 Uk Uk
14. Kauran, Ampatuan, Cot. Aug. 9, 1971 Uk Uk
15. Buldon, Cot. Aug. 9, 1971 60 Uk Uk
16. Kisulon, Bukidnon Oct. 23, 1971 67 Uk Uk
17. Magsaysay, Lanao del Norte Oct. 24, 1971 66 Uk Uk
18. Tacub,Kauswagan,Lanao del Norte Nov. 22, 1971 40 140 Uk
19. Siay, Zamboanga del SurNov. 1971 Uk Uk Uk
20. Ipi I, Zamboanga del Sur Dec. 1971 Ud Uk Uk
21. Palembang, Cot. Jan. 21, 1972 Ud Uk Uk
Legend: Ud = Undetermined Uk = Unknown HB Houses Burned

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