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02-24-2013, 04:22 PM
Malaysia gives Sulu Sultanate’s army 48 more hours to leave Sabah—report
By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
4:05 pm | Sunday, February 24th, 2013


Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram talks to reporters during a news conference in Alabang, south of Manila, Philippines on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. His followers who crossed to the Malaysian state of Sabah this month will not leave and are reclaiming the area as their ancestral territory, the sultan said Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, amid a tense standoff. AP FILE PHOTO
MANILA, Philippines—A Malaysian online newspaper reported on Sunday that the Malaysian government has given a 48-hour extension for the royal army of the Sultanate of Sulu to leave Sabah.
“The clock is ticking away for the Sulu armed group holed up at the Tanduo village as the Sunday deadline draws near with no sign of them giving up peacefully,” the Star reported on its website http://thestar.com.my/news.
The report was posted at 12:10 p.m. Sunday.
“The earlier Friday deadline was extended by 48-hours after the Philippines government requested for a four-day extension till Tuesday on the grounds that Manila was trying to persuade the Sulu group to give up their stand,” the report said.
The report prompted a senior Philippine diplomat to lament the “irresponsibility and recklessness” of the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu in the dispatch of a group of an estimated 180 Muslim-Filipinos to Lahad Datu, with some 30 of them armed.
The diplomat requested anonymity as only the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was authorized to release statements at this point.
For the diplomat, the stubborn order of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III for his brother and their followers to stand down in Sabah showed their family’s “irresponsibility and lack of concern for civilian lives.”
The diplomat noted that the Kirams sent “women and unarmed civilians to Lahad Datu.”
“If there is a forced deportation, have they thought of what will happen to the civilians, some of whom joined up after being promised lands in Sabah?” the diplomat said.
The diplomat also said that the group’s claim of having peaceful objectives was “illogical and irrational,” given the fact they were escorted by armed men and they intruded into a neighboring country.
“If there is bloodshed, it would be on the Kiram’s hands and not on government’s,” the diplomat said.
“With their quixotic and reckless move, they have placed at risk not only the Mindanao peace process but also the overall peace and security situation in Mindanao, which all Filipinos have worked and hoped for and Filipino-Muslims have long deserved,” the diplomat added.
Kiram had said that his brother and their royal army would remain in Lahad Datu. In a press conference Friday, Kiram’s wife, Princess Fatima Cecilia Kiram, said that their family would like to negotiate the Sabah claim with Malaysia and settle the dispute before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the United Nations.

Sam Miguel
02-25-2013, 09:18 AM
Sabah and US

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S. J.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:52 pm | Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Sabah has once again become front-page material because of the move of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu to enforce their claim to a portion of the territory. It may be good to understand what the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu are claiming. As I see it, they are not claiming political sovereignty over the territory. Sulu, not being a sovereign state itself, cannot be claiming sovereign powers over Sabah. What is being claimed is proprietary right. They claim to be the owners and lessors of the property with Malaysia as lessee-successor to a British company.

The Philippine government itself sees the current problem merely as proprietary and not involving sovereignty. But is there a sovereignty problem? There is, but it has been dormant for some time now and there is no indication that the current administration wishes to resuscitate it. After all, we are concerned about preserving peace among the Asean nations. Moreover, we have accepted the friendly cooperation of Malaysia in solving the Bangsamoro problem. But a look at the sovereignty issue involved in the Sabah problem may be useful.

Part of the problem is permanently recognized by the Constitution. It is not essential that a constitution should have a delimitation of a state’s national territory. After all a constitution is domestic law and it is not binding on other nations. But our Constitution has an article on national territory for a very special reason. And the Sabah issue is now also there.

In 1935, there was a compelling reason for a careful delineation of Philippine territory in the Constitution. The Constitutional Convention then was aware that it was formulating a Constitution for a government that would not yet be politically independent of the United States; and there was, at that time, the fear that the United States would allow the dismemberment of the nation. The desire of the convention was to tie the hands of the United States and prevent America from slicing off any portion of Philippine territory. Tying American hands was possible because the Tydings-McDuffie Law, which authorized the drafting of the Constitution, required that the work of the Convention be submitted to the United States government for its acceptance. Thus, acceptance of the Constitution by the United States would have been acceptance of the territorial claims of the Philippines. As Delegate Vicente Singson-Encarnacion put it: “Debemos poner aqui lo que es necessario para nosotros que nos consideramos como una cosa necessaria, a fin de que despues no se conviertan algunas de nuestras islas en ‘yoyo’ o sea, que Estados Unidos retire lo que hoy de buena gana nos concede.”

In other words, there was a recognition that a constitution is not an international law but only a municipal law and, as such, binding only on the nation promulgating it. No provision in a constitution binds any other nation. But for reasons peculiar to the Philippines then, the Constitutional Convention also wanted to convert the 1935 Constitution into an international agreement binding on the United States by obtaining that nation’s acceptance of the provision on national territory. And that is what happened.

When the 1971 Constitutional Convention was formulating the constitution which was to become the 1973 Constitution, the delegates debated on whether to have an article on national territory at all. You can look at the Feb. 14 and Feb. 15, 1972, records for some entertainment. Some of the speeches are dead serious, others comic, and most of them utterly forgettable. At any rate the convention decided to adopt an article on national territory. After fumigating the 1935 version of overt colonial odor, the convention added to the 1935 claim two international challenges: one made the catch-all claim of “all other territories belonging to the Philippines by historic right or legal title,” and the other asserted Philippine acceptance of the “archipelagic principle.”

The adoption of the “archipelagic principle” has not created waves; but the catch-all claim of territories “belonging to the Philippines by historic right or legal title” irritated Malaysia which saw the phrase as the assertion of Philippine claim over Sabah. As indeed it was. And it became an obstacle to smooth relations with this Asean neighbor.

Once again, in the 1987 Constitutional Commission, there was debate on whether to drop the entire article on national territory. In the end, the decision was to keep it. Indeed, it would have been awkward to drop it if, after carefully enshrining it in earlier constitutions, it would be abandoned now. The debate then shifted to the claim over Sabah.

The Sabah debate ended with a softened statement staking its claim in the following language: “all other territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction.” The original phrase had said “exercises sovereignty or jurisdiction.” “Exercises” yielded to “has” on the argument that a state could “have” jurisdiction over an area where another state is “exercising” jurisdiction—which Malaysia was doing over Sabah. The language fitted the dormant but still not abandoned claim to Sabah.

It is clear that even with the recent movements in Sabah, the current administration is not inclined to awaken the dormant claim. I agree. Awakening it would serve no useful purpose. We are having enough problem dealing with China’s territorial claims.

Sam Miguel
02-25-2013, 11:03 AM
Not a very good idea

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:53 pm | Sunday, February 24th, 2013

I can only hope that by this time the followers of Jamalul Kiram have withdrawn peacefully from Tanduao in Sabah. Theirs is a no-win situation. They can neither win a physical nor moral victory by remaining there. They can neither gain territory nor sympathy by remaining there.

Their armed incursion is counterproductive. At the very least, as nearly every observer has pointed out, their timing sucks. The Philippine government stands on the threshold of forging one of the most vital agreements in history, one that could end the centuries-long war between government and the Muslim rebels of Mindanao. Indeed, one that could finally put an end to the latter’s secessionist stirrings, persuading them to take the giant leap, or paradigm shift, of seeing themselves as part of the Philippine polity, albeit with a wide latitude for self-governance. You would imagine everyone would exert themselves to make this dream come true.

This one does not. The incursion into Sabah undercuts it, undermines it, subverts it. Crucial to clinching the peace agreement—one incidentally that still has quite a long way to go; government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are merely at the stage of discussing the shape and form and size of the Bangsamoro entity—is the help of Malaysia in it. It was Malaysia that brokered it, it was Malaysia that hosted the preliminary talks, it was Malaysia that persuaded the MILF to see the light. And it is Malaysia that Kiram’s group is pissing off.

It’s enough to give credence to speculation that the group was goaded and possibly funded into doing it by groups opposed to the peace agreement, not least the Moro National Liberation Front. But even if it did not, it puts a dampening effect on relations between the Philippine and Malaysian governments, if not indeed a barrier between them. That cannot augur well for the agreement. Nothing can be more badly timed.

Just as well, it undercuts, undermines and subverts the Philippine position in its territorial conflict with China. It makes us out, and not China, to be given to expansionism, to be a little addled about what is ours and what is not, and perfectly willing to indulge in aggressive and preposterous adventures to claim what we delude ourselves to be ours. At least it opens us to that charge, and various Chinese quarters have been quick to jump at that opening. Why shouldn’t they? Again, nothing can be more contretemps.

At the very most, the substance doesn’t make things better.

First off, Kiram’s claim is based on a 19th-century colonial document that says North Borneo belongs to the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu. Colonial documents are always tricky stuff. Not least because they tend to acquire all sorts of legal encrustations over the centuries, making resolutions the hardest thing in the world. A legal axiom says that possession is nine-tenths of the law. Not even Ferdinand Marcos, with his propensity to supplement legal measures with thuggish ones, managed to get far in laying a claim to Sabah. Quite incidentally, that legal axiom, possession is nine-tenths of the law, is the bedrock of our claim to the Kalayaan Islands: they have “always been ours” for as long as we can remember. Why should we want to undermine it?

More than that, you base a legal claim on colonial documents, you recognize, acknowledge, uphold the legal and moral validity of colonialism itself. What in fact is colonialism? However it is justified, it is the naked seizure, grabbing and annexation of territory by the strong from the weak. I’ve always been leery of claims based on colonial documents on that ground. I’ve always thought the better tack, particularly in these postcolonial times, when hindsight allows us 20-20 vision, is to condemn the arrangements it made as being founded on a crime.

Whence, for example, came the moral and legal right of Spain to sell the Philippines to the United States for $20 million? Particularly when it was facing a full-blown revolution that was on the cusp of victory? Did that sale naturally make the Philippines an American property? Resting your claim on a colonial document is not unlike insisting on your right to a stolen good that a thief has fenced because you bought it in good faith.

Second off, which is the irony of it, the claim to Sabah is not being made on behalf of the Philippine government, it is being made on behalf of the Sultan of Sulu. Those who clamor loudly that the Philippine government should revive its claim to Sabah in light of Kiram’s initiative should be mindful of this. The fact that the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu are invoking an agreement with Britain shows they are doing so not as private property owners but as a very public one—as a political entity no less. You do not make an agreement or treaty with a private individual or group, you make it with a nation or political group. The armed incursion into Sabah doesn’t just force the Malaysian government to recognize the Sultan of Sulu’s presumed property rights, it forces the Philippine government to recognize the presumed existence of the Sultanate of Sulu.

But of course the Philippine government can’t possibly support this adventurism, if for no other reason than this. At a time when we’ve just succeeded in persuading the Muslims in Mindanao to give up secessionism and think of integration, we want to complicate matters by creating a new and separate “government”?

And finally, the inhabitants of Sabah have regarded themselves as Malaysians for as long as they can remember. The question isn’t even if they would rather become Filipinos instead after all this time, which defies logic. The question is if they would rather become subjects of the Sultan of Sulu, which defies sanity.

All in all, not a very good idea.

Sam Miguel
02-25-2013, 11:05 AM
Who owns Sulu?

By Randy David

8:31 pm | Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

In what appeared to be an impromptu interview, President Aquino last Thursday spoke of his apprehensions over the tense situation that has developed in the wake of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III’s decision to send his “royal army” to reclaim Sabah as part of the Sulu “homeland.” Asked about his position on the country’s dormant claim to sovereignty over Sabah, the President deftly avoided making any explicit statement on the issue, saying that his Cabinet was still compiling the data and studying the documents.

He admitted that he found the Sabah question confusing. “Everybody was signing a document in his native language. And you wonder how many of them understood what was written in the other copy. Now, I am not an expert. I have tasked the experts to study all of this and to find out precisely where we stand.”

In the course of this free-wheeling interview, the President posed a question that carried broad implications. I’m quoting from the interview as reported by the Inquirer. “If we agree that the Sultan of Sulu owns Sabah, does that also mean that they own Sulu? If we (the sultanate) own Sulu, can we (the sultanate) suddenly say we are separate from the Philippines?” The President’s question touches on the very core issues underpinning the claim to a Bangsamoro homeland.

Like the other royal families of Sulu, the Kiram heirs most likely still own huge tracts of land in Sulu. Much communal land was privately titled during the American period. Still, one can assume that a big portion of the land in these parts belongs to the ancestral domain of the people of Sulu and remains communal. I am not aware that any of the royal families has any pending private claim to the entire island. Ownership is not the main issue in Muslim Mindanao.

It is the question of sovereignty over Sulu (and by extension, the rest of Muslim Mindanao) that has preoccupied generations of the Moro people. This is what they have fought for over the centuries. All around them, they have seen how neighboring islands flourished under colonial rule, and how their own fierce struggle to stay free isolated them from the major currents of modern development. Despite this, they have persisted in their quixotic quest to govern themselves.

Compared to the rest of us, the Moros were better equipped politically and culturally to resist colonial subjugation and wage war against foreign invaders. The sultanates were effective structures of rule in their time, and the spread of Islam in Mindanao well before the arrival of Spain had given its inhabitants a unifying and coherent way of life. On this basis, they fought Spain, they fought the United States, and they have continued to fight the Philippine government.

It is fascinating that P-Noy brought up the question of historic documents becoming objects of contestation. Something is indeed always lost (or added) in translation. He was referring to the 1878 agreement on Sabah between the Sultan of Sulu and the British North Borneo Co. But he could have been describing the US misreading of the 1899 Bates Treaty, which formed the basis of American rule over Mindanao until 1915.

The Bates Treaty, says the writer Saul Hofileña Jr. in his book “Under the Stacks,” led to the enactment of laws that caused the distribution of Moro ancestral lands to Christians and Americans. These actions sparked a war whose aftereffects continue to be felt until today. Among the most crucial in changing the political and social landscape of Mindanao, according to Hofileña, are the following: Public Land Act No. 718 which virtually erased land grants given to the traditional leaders of indigenous communities, a mining law passed in 1903 which opened up all public lands to exploration by Americans, the Cadastral Act of 1907 which ordered the survey of public lands for titling purposes, the 1912 resettlement of landless peasants from Luzon and the Visayas, and Acts No. 2254 and 2280 of the Philippine Commission which authorized the establishment of agricultural colonies in Mindanao.

All such actions drew their authority from Article I of the Bates Treaty. The Americans insisted that the article clearly stated: “The Sovereignty of the United States over the whole archipelago of Jolo and its dependencies is declared and acknowledged.” But this provision did not exist in the vernacular version bearing the signature of the Sultan. A subsequent translation of the Sulu text commissioned by Director F.W. Carpenter of the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes rendered Article I thus: “The Land of Sulu and its Islands are under the protection of the American Government.” No mention of American sovereignty. Under the terms of this treaty, Sulu was recognized as a self-governing entity under the protectorate of America. It was only on March 22, 1915, under the Carpenter Agreement, that the Sultan explicitly ceded “sovereignty over the Philippine portion of the Sultanate of Sulu in favor of the United States Government.” But, by then, so much had already happened that was irreversible.

American sovereignty over Muslim Mindanao later passed on to an independent Philippine Republic. But it is important to bear in mind that Spain and America were always fully cognizant of the particularities of Muslim Mindanao. After ceding the Philippines to the United States under the Treaty of Paris, Spain made a move to return Jolo to the Sultan of Sulu, leaving the Americans to negotiate their own treaty. This prompted the US colonial authorities to propose the Bates Treaty. But, even as they asserted full sovereignty in 1915, the Americans thought it proper to deal with Muslim Mindanao as a separate Moro province.

* * *

Sam Miguel
02-26-2013, 08:18 AM
2 more claim to be real sultan of Sulu

By Allan Afdal Nawal

Inquirer Mindanao

1:36 am | Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

DIGOS CITY—The diplomatic and security crisis created by Jamalul Kiram III’s sending a group of armed followers to Sabah to claim the land has revived an age-old question here: Who is the real sultan of Sulu?

Since the crisis started nearly three weeks ago, two more members of the Kiram clan, both claiming to be the 35th sultan of Sulu, have emerged, airing different views on the standoff in Sabah.

Despite their conflicting claims to the title, which Jamalul insists is his, Fuad Kiram and Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram agree with their cousin that Sabah belongs to the Sulu sultanate.

The sultanate was once one of the most powerful monarchies in the world, with warriors feared for their swordsmanship.

Until the 19th century, the sultanate’s territory stretched from Sulu in southern Philippines to North Borneo in the northern margin of the South Pacific.

But the sun has set on the sultanate, as the colonial powers retreated home with the arrival of modern times.

Malaysian lease

North Borneo passed on to Malaysia after that country gained independence from Britain, though the Malaysians continued to recognize the Sulu sultanate’s ownership of the territory now known as Sabah.

Malaysia pays a token sum of 5,300 ringgit (P77,000) a year to the Sulu sultanate as lease on Sabah. There are reports in Manila that the paltry amount may be one of the reasons for Jamalul’s sending the “Royal Security Forces to the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo” to Sabah on Feb. 9 to occupy the territory.

“Our official policy is the return of Sabah to all of us the nine heirs, including the people,” said Fuad, a son of Sultan Esmail Kiram I (1950-1974) who claims his title is recognized by the council of elders of Sulu.

But unlike Jamalul, he said, he wants the retaking of Sabah done “by peaceful means and by peaceful coexistence with others.”

Recognized by Marcos

Muedzul, who claims he is the 35th sultan of Sulu because former President Ferdinand Marcos recognized his father, Sultan Ampun Mohammad Mahakuttah Kiram (1974-1986), said that contrary to being a protector of the people of Sulu, Jamalul put the lives of not only his armed followers but also those of the women and children with them in danger by sending them to Sabah.

If Jamalul had achieved anything with the adventure, it was to make the world know that he was the sultan of Sulu, Muedzul said in a report published by a Malaysian newspaper on Sunday.

“They want to assure the people that they are with the legitimate sultan, but the fact is that they are not, because there is only one sultan of Sulu and that is me,” Muedzul said.

Other Malaysian newspapers quoted Muedzul as saying in a radio interview that Jamalul’s sending armed followers to Sabah was “a decision that would never emanate from a wise man.”

Not a good idea

“He is against the way the situation is being handled, because going into another country’s territory with people [who are] armed, we don’t think it is a good idea,” one Malaysian newspaper quoted Andres Lindholm, Muedzul’s secretary, as saying.

So who’s the real sultan of Sulu?

Fuad says he is; Muedzul says he is.

But it is Jamalul who commands the respect and obedience of the people of Sulu.

And he is the one who has a “royal army” to assert the clan’s claim to Sabah.

Sam Miguel
02-26-2013, 08:19 AM
De Lima has no clue on PH stand on sultan’s move

By Christine O. Avendaño

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:29 am | Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Will the Aquino administration step in and help the sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo retake Sabah from Malaysia?

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima does not know the answer.

She said Monday that the government would know what action to take only after the completion of a comprehensive legal study on the ownership of Sabah.

De Lima said when President Aquino ordered the Department of Justice, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the President itself to look into the claim of the Sulu sultanate to Sabah, there was “no indication” at all of what his administration intended to do with the ownership question.

“What the President wants is to look at the merit or the validity of the Sabah claim before he makes any decision or before this government makes any policy direction with respect to that issue,” De Lima told reporters.

Sabah standoff

The study, however, has been prompted by a standoff between Malaysian security forces and a group of armed followers of the sultan of Sulu who entered Sabah on Feb. 9 and refused to leave, insisting Sabah was their ancestral land.

De Lima, who was tasked by the President to look into the legal aspect of the sultanate’s claim, said she would try to finish her part of the study this week.

She said no administration after that of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos had taken a “definitive” stand on the controversy, apparently referring to the 1968 Jabidah massacre on Corregidor Island.

The killing of military recruits by their military trainers there exposed the top-secret plan “Operation Merdeka,” hatched by the Marcos regime to invade Sabah.

Merits of the case

“I think every administration endeavors to make a study but the administrations after Marcos [did not take] any definitive position,” she said, adding that was the reason the President wanted “to be enlightened on the merits of the claim.”

Asked whether reports of division within the family of the sultan of Sulu would affect the claim to Sabah, De Lima declined to comment, saying the government wanted to be “silent” on the issues involving the standoff in Sabah between the men of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and Malaysian security forces.

What is clear, she said, is that the government “did not sanction” Jamalul’s actions.

The government is trying to help solve the standoff peacefully only because Filipinos are involved, De Lima said.

“But we want it to be as low-key as possible,” she added, referring to actions being taken by the government to end the standoff without bloodshed.

Amalilio case

Meanwhile, De Lima said she had again postponed the departure of a four-member team of state prosecutors and lawyers to Kuala Lumpur to press for the extradition of alleged con man Manuel Amalilio to the Philippines.

The group was supposed to leave this week, but De Lima said the Malaysian attorney general would not be available until March 4.

De Lima said earlier that the standoff in Sabah did not appear to be affecting the government’s bid to bring Amalilio back to the Philippines with the help of Malaysia so he could face criminal charges for duping 15,000 people in Mindanao and the Visayas of P12 billion through a Ponzi scheme that collapsed last year.

Sam Miguel
02-26-2013, 08:59 AM
From Philstar.com - - -

Phl gov't urges Filipinos in Sabah standoff to return

| Updated February 25, 2013 - 9:00pm

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - The Philippine government urged again today followers of a Filipino clan locked in a territorial standoff with Malaysian authorities to board the ship sent by the government in Sabah.

"We don't want anybody to get hurt," Philippine Foreign Affairs Spokesman Raul Hernandez told a press briefing. The fate of these Filipinos remains unclear if they continue to defy Malaysia's deadline to leave the area.

He said Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario has requested Malaysia to extend the deadline until Tuesday's midnight as Manila continues to persuade the group to leave peacefully.

On the same day, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said, " We do not wish bloodshed and we certainly hope that this situation be resolved peacefully and that continues to be our prayer."

He said the humanitarian ship sent to Lahad Datu in Sabah would stay there till they are needed.

Sultan of Sulu Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram sent on Feb. 12 around 180 of his followers, including women and 30 armed security escorts, to Lahad Datu, Sabah to resettle and fortify their claim to the Malaysian-controlled territory, igniting a diplomatic crisis between the Philippines and Malaysia.

Sabah, located south of Mindanao, is territorially disputed by the Philippines and Malaysia. A Philippine claim for sovereignty over the resource-rich territory has laid dormant for decades, but Malaysia continues to pay a yearly rent to the heirs of Sultan of Sulu.

Kiram's followers are regarded as intruders by Malaysian authorities but extended thrice a deadline for them to leave peacefully.

Sam Miguel
02-26-2013, 09:01 AM
Phl wants diplomatic solution to Sabah standoff

By Aurea Calica

(The Philippine Star) | Updated February 26, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The government is currently engaged in high-level talks with Malaysian authorities to ensure the safety of Filipinos in Sabah after supporters of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III holed up in Lahad Datu town to press their claim to the land.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario met yesterday with Malaysian Ambassador Zamri Bin Mohd Kassim to follow up the request for an extension of the deadline for the Filipinos to voluntarily leave Sabah.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has yet to receive any confirmation from Malaysia about the request for extension.

The Filipinos were only given until Tuesday by Malaysian authorities to voluntary leave Sabah.

“We are getting mixed signals so we asked that Tuesday midnight deadline be officially confirmed,” Del Rosario said in a text message.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the DFA decided to send a ship to Lahad Datu to fetch those who want to come back safely to the Philippines. Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) troops based in Sabah are reportedly converging near Lahad Datu to respond to any forced eviction of the sultan’s followers, an MNLF source said.

The Philippine Navy ship BRP Tagbanua on Sunday left for Malaysia on a humanitarian mission with social workers and medical personnel on board, to try to fetch five women and some group members.

Abraham Idjirani, spokesman of the sultanate of Sulu and Borneo, said Kiram’s followers would not honor the mercy mission dispatched by the Philippine government to escort his people back to Sulu because there was no formal coordination.

“Based on the pronouncement of Raja Muda, they will not talk to anyone who does not carry the torch from Sultan Kiram,” said Idjirani.

The Philippine and Malaysian authorities have said the group’s demands should be coursed through diplomatic channels. “Number one, on the general proposition that our government, the Malaysian government, and the Kiram family would like to have a peaceful resolution to this entire situation, we continue to hold that prayer,” Lacierda said.

As to what other steps the government will take, Lacierda said, “I am not authorized to speak on that. The DFA will be the office in-charge to lay out our policy on that matter.”

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said the secretary had a meeting yesterday morning with the Malaysian ambassador.

“We want to know some details regarding what is happening as far as the Filipinos in Sabah are concerned. We are still hoping they will come back to us with official confirmation,” he said.

The Philippines on Saturday notified Malaysia about the ship arrangement, saying the vessel would stay off Lahad Datu while talks to persuade the Filipinos to return home continue.

Lacierda said he could not conclude whether the talks with the Kirams had failed or if their continued defiance prompted the DFA to send the ship.

“Again, our position has always been consistent. We do not wish bloodshed and we... certainly hope that this situation will be resolved peacefully and that continues to be our prayer,” Lacierda said.

He said the DFA and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II have been authorized to speak on the matter.

“But, as of now, we would like to hold off any comments. Our priority right now, again, is to end this whole situation peacefully. So pardon me if I will not be able to give you any answer on that point,” he said. Hernandez said Del Rosario also requested the Malaysian government to allow the ship to dock in Lahad Datu to bring food and fetch those who want to go back.

Del Rosario also reiterated his plea for the Filipinos in Sabah to return home for their own safety.

A food blockade is being imposed by the Malaysian authorities around the area, forcing the sultan’s followers to scavenge for food, and they are now reportedly eating root crops.

Lacierda said the ship would stay there as long as it is needed and “the offer to take care of them is there.”

“It’s a humanitarian mission. There are confirmed reports of women but we don’t know of children. That’s why we have social workers together with doctors in the boat to ascertain the situation on the ground,” he said.

The official said the sending of the ship was cleared with the Malaysian government and not with the Kirams.

He expressed hope the report that the Filipinos would not board the ship was not true.

The royal army of the sultanate has reportedly said they were ready to defend themselves if the Malaysian government would force them out of Sabah.

They said they would only return to the Philippines aboard the Navy ship if they were already dead.

Asked about the statement of Kiram that he was open to talk in neutral places like Hong Kong, Brunei, or Singapore, the Palace official said it would be up to the DFA to speak on the matter.

“I think Secretary Del Rosario has already spoken to the foreign minister of Malaysia and I think that’s high-level enough for them. They have been discussing this matter so... with respect, for instance, to the request for extension of deadlines. And, also, Secretary Del Rosario is in touch with the Malaysian ambassador,” he said.

When asked again if the talks with the Kirams really broke down, Lacierda said: “We firmly believe that we need to see the situation on the ground.”

Sultan’s men won’t leave

Meanwhile, the MNLF said more than a thousand civilian supporters of Kiram and his brother Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram in Sabah have also expressed their firm resolve not to return to the Philippines.

About 200 relatives of Kiram, including some 30 armed security guards, arrived in Lahad Datu two weeks ago, claiming Sabah belongs to their royal clan based in the province of Sulu.

Malaysian authorities regarded them as armed intruders and have tried to persuade them to leave peacefully, extending a deadline until Tuesday.

The Malaysian Armed Forces has assembled its Marines, Air Force and Navy personnel in Sabah and threatened to use force to dislodge Kiram’s followers.

Idjirani said the position of the sultanate was not to honor the mission of the Philippine government since they were not coordinated for such action.

“Our policy is always to make the people there feel we have the ‘markabat’ (dignity),” he said. However, Idjirani clarified Kiram is open to negotiation to settle the issue, provided it would give dignity to the sultanate’s claims to Sabah. Malaysian police have not said what kind of weapons the Filipinos possessed.

The sultanate maintained the over 200 people came to Lahad Datu peacefully, and it would be unwise for them to engage in battle a country equipped with submarine, naval ships and a modern military defense system.

Do or die

“But Raja Muda said they would have no other choice but to defend their stay once the Malaysian force would attack them. He said the issue would be settled only after they are all dead,” Idjirani said, citing the statement of Kiram’s younger brother.

Raja Muda is the younger brother of Kiram who led the more than 200 people in the standoff.

The MNLF expressed hope the stalemate would be resolved peacefully while stressing the sultanate of Sulu and Borneo has every right over their own land, which is only being rented by the Malaysians from them.

MNLF political affairs chief Haji Gapul Hajirul, citing their ground monitoring on the ongoing standoff in Sabah, said that around a thousand followers of the sultan, including women and children, have decided to remain in Lahad Datu.

Another source from the MNLF said if Malaysia would use force, their troops in Sabah would move to defend their brothers.

He said the MNLF in Sabah is joined by Tausug people, some already Malaysian citizens, in keeping a close watch on the sultanate army.

The MNLF declined to confirm or deny the reported mobilization of troops in Sabah.

“The issue is not about MNLF, it’s about the Tausugs and the Sultanate,” MNLF spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla said.

MNLF chairman Nur Misuari had earlier warned Malaysia not to launch any police or military action against the group in Lahad Datu.

Misuari said he asked Prime Minister Najib Razak not to harm the group, some of whom he claimed were regular members of the MNLF.

He, however, clarified the MNLF contingent that went with the group of the sultanate has no permission to occupy the disputed territory.

Binay meets Kiram

Vice President Jejomar Binay confirmed yesterday he met with Kiram at a party hosted by a common friend last Sunday.

Binay clarified the meeting was accidental even as he refused to disclose the location of their meeting.

“I was surprised to see him there. I was introduced to him. He explained their position and I listened to him,” he said.

The vice president said he reiterated to Kiram the position of the Aquino government on the problem in Sabah and renewed his appeal for sobriety.

He said he told Kiram the parties involved should exert all efforts to arrive at a peaceful resolution. – With AP, Jose Rodel Clapano, Roel Pareo, Perseus Echeminada, Jaime Laude, Pia Lee-Brago

Sam Miguel
02-26-2013, 09:04 AM
Disarray

FIRST PERSON

By Alex Magno

(The Philippine Star) | Updated February 26, 2013 - 12:00am

Next to controlling smuggling, diplomacy is the weakest suit of this administration. The deteriorating situation in Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu town in Sabah underscores that.

Last week, the Sultanate of Sulu blindsided everybody by sending a couple of hundred armed followers to assert his proprietary claims in Sabah. The presence of troops from the “royal army” of the Sultanate was not an invasion (otherwise that would be completely comical). It was a maneuver intended to highlight the unresolved territorial claims stretching back in history.

For a week, nothing definite in terms of policy guidance emanated from the Palace. No top-level official was deployed to Kuala Lumpur (we have no consulate in Sabah because this could undermine our sovereign claims) to coordinate with Malaysian authorities in the handling of the bizarre incident. No one, it appears, was sent to the court of the Sultan to talk to him about withdrawing the armed force. No diplomat, it seems, was sent to Lahad Datu to mediate on behalf of Filipino citizens who might have put themselves in an unhealthy situation.

The Palace attitude, it seems, was to bury its head in the sand in the hope the problem would go away. In the meantime, we lost precious diplomatic time. In the meantime, the Sultanate had written the Malaysian prime minister asking that talks on the proprietary claims be reopened. The Sultanate eventually wrote the UN secretary-general to request third party assistance.

In the meantime, too, Malaysian authorities established a food blockade around the Tausog armed force. The food blockade was the best alternative to a firefight.

The first really official move the Philippine government undertook was to request Malaysia to extend its deadline by four days. The original deadline was last Friday. The new deadline happens today. What our government did in the interim is not clear.

We will know by sunset if the Sultan’s decision to send a detachment of heavily armed fighters to Sabah was a brilliant move or one of sheer folly. He might have restored the forgotten claim (ignored by the much touted Bangsamoro Framework Agreement) to the top of the agenda or merely provoked a senseless bloodbath.

The latest word has it that the Sultan of Sulu ordered his fighters to stand their ground at Tanduo. If the fighters obey that order, they will be martyrs to the claim.

Meanwhile, we hear nothing from the National Security Adviser, the Foreign Affairs Secretary or the Secretary of National Defense. The President was last heard babbling about his teenage crush for a senator seeking reelection.

There seems to be no sense of urgency at the top — just as there was such a resounding absence of any sense of urgency when that tragic Luneta hostage incident happened. The hair-trigger situation in Kapung Tanduo seems like a nuisance the national leadership devoutly wishes to ignore.

The greater interest in the Palace is to discover which among its factional rivals connived with the Sultan in conjuring up this national embarrassment. Underpinning that Palace attitude is a prejudiced view that Muslim Filipinos can only be stooges manipulated by Manila-based political factions.

Meanwhile, the prospects of the “royal army” and the thousands of Filipinos inhabiting Sabah rapidly deteriorates by the hour. Hard as the Palace might try to ignore it, the situation has now become seriously internationalized.

Cost structure

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) rejected a plan by the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) to collect an additional P65 billion from consumers. Had that plan been approved, electricity bills will be much higher than the already painful increases due this month.

Electricity costs in the Philippines remain the second highest in Asia. This distinction has caused us to endure large economic costs, most prominent being the hollowing out of our manufacturing sector. In the more globalized environment, there is no way energy-intensive domestic manufacturing could compete with cheaper imports from neighboring economies with better-managed energy cost structures.

The withering away of our manufacturing sector is the single biggest cause of high unemployment in our economy. In turn, high unemployment results in higher poverty rates.

The vicious cycle is truly cruel. Even as our economy grows, the poverty profile worsens. The poor households consume less of everything else because of high electricity costs.

Cagayan Rep. Jackie Enrile, who advocates bringing down the electricity price regime, agrees with the ERC rejection of the PSALM plan — but says this is not enough. Since the bloated power costs cause the economy so much harm, Enrile says government should do more. While the PSALM needs to manage the debts incurred in the past by mismanagement of the power generation sector, the task must not compromise future economic growth especially for the poor.

Enrile suggests the share of government from the sale of indigenous energy resources be reduced from the present 60% to only 3%. He points out that government’s share from the sale of natural gas is five to eight times more than the taxes imposed on imported fuels such as coal, oil and liquefied natural gas. This is such an anomalous situation.

If government’s share from indigenous energy resources is reduced, overall electricity costs will decline. When that happens, the poor will be able to reallocate their limited purchasing power to meet other needs, principally food. That reallocation will cause broader, more inclusive economic expansion.

Because power costs plays such a vital role in determining the inclusiveness of our economic growth, Enrile’s proposal deserves a much closer look. It will serve our economy better if government does treat indigenous energy sources as just another revenue cow.

Sam Miguel
02-28-2013, 08:03 AM
Sulu sultan one of Palace VIP guests at signing of peace deal

By TJ Burgonio

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:04 am | Thursday, February 28th, 2013

When the government signed a preliminary peace deal with Moro rebels in October last year, it didn’t expect that one of the guests in Malacañang would cause an international crisis and deprive President Aquino of sleep.

Sultan Jamalul Kiram III was one of hundreds of guests who crammed a hall in the Palace to witness the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro on Oct. 15, 2012, Malacañang said on Wednesday.

Little did Malacañang know that Jamalul, one of the heirs of the sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, was feeling left out of the agreement and would order a group of his followers to Sabah to occupy the territory in an attempt to press his clan’s claim to the land.

No ringside seat?

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told a press briefing Wednesday that Jamalul could not complain about not being given a good seat in Malacañang because he, too, had no seat.

“It was such a historic event. People just wanted to come in. There were so many important people there. Even the ambassadors were not seated. There was not a section devoted to the diplomatic [corps]. Everybody present sat with one another,” he said.

“The atmosphere was one of hope and one of optimism. It was unfortunate that he’s complaining only now. But the fact that he was invited … we recognized the fact out of the millions of Muslims in Mindanao, he was invited to come to the Palace. That should be an acknowledgment of the recognition of the traditional leadership in [the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao],” he said.

Contrary to Jamalul’s claim that the sultanate was left out of the talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the government panel met with him before the agreement was signed, Lacierda said.

“In the discussions on the peace process, the panel met with Sultan Jamalul Kiram. In fact, they were consulted. That’s the reason why if you look at the Bangsamoro framework agreement, there is a provision there, there’s respect for customary laws, traditional leaders,” he said.

The claim to Sabah was not tackled during the consultations “primarily because they recognized the peace process involved,” he added.

Staying up late

Stumping in Cagayan de Oro City for his administration’s senatorial candidates on Tuesday, President Aquino admitted staying up till 3 a.m. that day to write his televised appeal to Jamalul to order his followers to leave Sabah or face charges in court.

“Last night we prepared the statement about the Sabah incident. That lasted until 1:30 a.m. After that, Gov. [Mujiv] Hataman reported the outcome of his talks with the Kirams, and that was around 2 a.m. Everything was finished by 3 a.m. I got up from bed at 7 a.m. to deliver the statement, and then we flew here,” he told a large crowd in the Don Gregorio Pelaez Sports Complex.

Sam Miguel
02-28-2013, 10:10 AM
From Inquirer.net - - -

Kiram’s wife: Sulu group just having a picnic, like in Edsa ’86

12:03 am | Thursday, February 28th, 2013

What incursion? It’s an excursion.

Playing down accusations that their family intruded into the Malaysian territory of Sabah, the wife of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III yesterday said their armed followers who occupied a village there were just “having a picnic.”

“What they did is a benevolent action … It’s actually like what happened during the Edsa [People Power Revolution in 1986],” Princess Fatima Cecilia Kiram said.

She also strongly denied President Aquino’s allegation that somebody was financing the members of the “royal forces” of the sultanate of Sulu who sailed to Sabah on Feb. 9 and had since been holed up in the village of Tanduao in Lahad Datu town.

“This is not rebellion. I actually refer to it as an excursion. Our people there were just having a picnic,” a smiling Fatima told reporters in a news briefing at the Kirams’ home in Taguig City.

Turning serious, she said the Kirams and their followers “have had enough” of the Philippine government’s indifference to their plight and their decades-old struggle to assert the sultanate’s ownership of Sabah.

“We have not been remiss. We have repeatedly told the government that, ‘Hey, here we are. Can we do something (to) help you?’ What we need now is a written agreement. We will not entertain any verbal agreement,” she said.

Fatima also clarified that their followers did not go to Sabah on orders of her husband. She said the 235-strong group led by her husband’s brother, Agbimuddin Kiram, went to Sabah “on their own free will.”

In fact, she said it was Agbimuddin who convinced his older brother to allow the group to travel to Sabah and “settle down in their homeland.”

“We did not tell our people to start a fight and resort to violence. Our people went there voluntarily. It was their own free will,” Fatima said.

Fatima dismissed as speculation the President’s claim that Agbimuddin’s group may had received funding, saying it could be part of a “ploy, a desperate move of the government.”

No financier

She said the sultanate’s followers went to Sabah using “money from their own pockets.” She said the group raised less than P100,000 to buy gasoline for the motorboats they used to travel to Sabah from Tawi-Tawi.

Before the Malaysian authorities ordered a food blockade, she said, the residents of Tanduao provided food to Agbimuddin’s group since most of them were relatives of the Kirams.

Not about money

“These speculations are part of their desperate move. They thought our people will not move without a financer. If we have a financer, we could have had more than 250 people going there. Our people may have had more than 30 firearms. In that case, what we will see is an invasion,” she said.

Although she admitted that the family was facing financial woes, Fatima maintained that the Kirams’ fight to take back Sabah was not about money.

“They say this is about our financial difficulties. We are not denying that we are facing financial problems. We may belong to the 70 percent of Filipinos living in poverty, but we survive because of the will of Allah,” she said, choking back tears.

“But there are more of us aspiring for a better life … This fight is a fight to regain our dignity, pride and honor. This involves the patrimony of the Filipino people.”

Sam Miguel
02-28-2013, 10:12 AM
Malaysian forces sent to Lahad Datu village, says ARMM governor

By Julie Alipala and Allan Nawal

Inquirer Mindanao

8:03 pm | Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Acting Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said on Wednesday, information reaching him indicated that members of the Malaysian police had pulled out of Tanduo village in Lahad Datu, where the so-called Sulu “royal army” had encamped for days now, and had been replaced by Malaysian soldiers.

The fresh piece of information reached the ARMM governor as the Sabah Police Commission confirmed that a series of gunfire was heard from the area being “occupied by the foreign intruders” although these were allegedly not from the Malaysian side.

“We still need to verify this information but that was the latest news we got,” Hataman, however, said.

He agreed that if his information was correct, it indicated that Kuala Lumpur was poised to end the Lahad Datu stand-off by forcibly deporting Agbimuddin Kiram and his armed followers, numbering about 180.

Agbimuddin Kiram, younger brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, set off for a “homecoming” to Sabah on February 12, to assert the erstwhile monarchy’s claim over the resource-rich territory.

The “homecoming,” which Jamalul himself has ordered, has caught international attention, revived the question of who owns Sabah, and nearly cause a diplomatic crisis between Kuala Lumpur and Manila.

Hataman said as much as the Aquino government wanted to avoid bloodshed, the Kirams had continued rejecting appeals for them to leave Sabah.

Hataman said if the stand-off ended peacefully and members of the “royal army” had come home, the Kiram family could expect that the government would not take further action against them.

Malaysia’s Deputy Police Inspector-General Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar said Malaysian security forces might carry out the forced deportation procedure within 24 hours from Wednesday.

“We are set to end the stand-off,” he told the Malaysia Chronicle.

Gunshots were heard in Tanduo on Wednesday, according to reports carried by Malaysian newspapers.

Quoting Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib, the Malaysian newspapers reported on their online edition that Hamza had personally heard the shots fired.

“Yes, we heard gunshots,” Hamza was quoted as saying.

But he quickly added that members of the Malaysian security forces, who had surrounded the area being occupied by Kiram and members of the Sulu “royal army,” had not fired any shot since the stand-off started.

“(B)ut I dare say they were not from security forces. They may be aimed at animals or warning shots (from the Tausugs),” Hamza said.

Hamza, meanwhile, said the Sabah police was closing in on the area being occupied by the Sulu “royal army” to “ensure that nobody could escape and enter the area.”

He said the police would be going by the books and would use “relevant laws to prosecute the foreigners.”

Hamza confirmed that elements of “other Malaysian security units,” including the Army, had started moving in as part of the preparations for the arrest of the “intruders” but stressed that there had been no order for an actual arrest yet or the “use of suitable approach” to end the stand-off.

“We will decide after considering various factors including the surrounding area before acting. When the time comes, there will be no more negotiations. We can charge them in court, it is up to us,” he said, without elaborating on what the “suitable approach” was.

Hamza said the police would never strike a compromise with the Sulu “royal army” when it came to Malaysia’s sovereignty.

He said whatever action Malaysian security forces would take to end the stand-off, Sabah residents had been assured that “security is under control.”

Tanduo, which is sparsely populated by fishing and farming families, is about 130 kilometers from Lahad Datu town.

Commenting on reports that Manila had sent in a ship to ferry members of the “royal army” back to Sulu, Hamza said: “The vessel was still not in Malaysian territorial waters.”

It was expected that the ship would reach Lahad Datu at least seven days from Monday.

Agbimuddin was quoted by The Star Malaysia as saying that none of his men would board the ship back to Sulu and that they would stay in Lahad Datu unless ordered by his elder brother and Sulu sultan, Jamalul III.

Agbimuddin, The Star reported, had admitted they had ignored Malaysia’s warning.

Agbimuddin had said they already expected Malaysian security forces to force them out of Tanduo but they were “ready to defend ourselves, we are not afraid.”

“We are fine…We are not afraid because we know we are right. This is our land,” he was quoted as saying.

Agbimuddin said they would not fire any shot unless the Malaysian security forces come in. “We will not attack, we will defend ourselves.”

Meanwhile, Hamza was also quoted by Malaysian newspapers as having confirmed that seven persons, including a Filipino television journalist, were arrested on Feb. 20, on suspicion of spying for the Sultan of Sulu.

The arrest, Hamza said, was carried out as Kuala Lumpur implemented a ban on journalists covering the stand-off in Lahad Datu.

The arrested Filipino journalist was identified as Jamela Alindogan, Kuala Lumpur-based producer of the English channel of the Arab news network.

Alindogan, Hamza was quoted as saying, was arrested with Al-Jazeera Senior Asian Correspondent Steve Chao, cameraman Mark Giddens, and at least four youth members of the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) near Tanduo, where dozens of members of the so-called “royal army” of the Sultanate of Sulu had encamped for nearly three weeks now.

Hamza said Alindogan and the rest of the arrested persons — save for the boat operator — had already been released after they were questioned by the police.

He warned journalists, either local or foreign, against entering Lahad Datu but quickly added that Kuala Lumpur was banning them for their own sake.

Malaysian security forces had cordoned off the area where members of the Sulu royal army had stayed after their “homecoming” on Feb. 12.

“Please let us do our jobs. Our focus is to ensure the safety of the people and we do not wish to see any unforeseen incidences happening,” Hamza said.

Chong Pit Fah, SAPP information officer, has lambasted Malaysian security forces for arresting journalists and for implementing a ban on media coverage of the stand-off.

Chong also questioned the manner by which Alindogan was treated by the Sabah police.

Chong said Alindogan was “accused several times” of working with the royal army despite her showing her press card.

“This is embarrassing for Malaysians. We have a police force which can’t tell the difference between what is dangerous and what is harmless,” the progressive The Malaysian Insider said in one of its editorials.

“How much more do the police want to shame us with this farcical behavior? They can’t chase a group of men from Malaysian territory but they will play rough with a journalist,” the editorial added.

Sam Miguel
02-28-2013, 10:13 AM
Sultan’s brother open to ‘peaceful’ solution

Conflict puts 800,000 Filipinos in danger, says Roxas

By Frances Mangosing, Maila Ager

INQUIRER.net

1:54 pm | Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines – The brother of the sultan of Sulu said his group in Lahad Datu town in Sabah was open to negotiate with the Malaysian government just to have a “peaceful” solution to the Sabah standoff.

“Yes. Talagang peaceful negotiation ang kailangan…so long as our rights will not be taken away from us. Negotiation talaga ng gusto namin,” Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram told Radyo Inquirer 990AM on Wednesday when asked if they were open to negotiations.

“Kailangan namin ng ganun, peaceful. We have to renegotiate in a peaceful way,” said Raja Muda, brother of Jamalul Kiram III.

Raja Muda said the standoff could be resolved peacefully “so long as there is no betrayal, so long as they are sincere with the negotiation.”

His statements came just a day after Sultan Jamalul rejected President Benigno Aquino III’s call to withdraw the armed group in the disputed land or “face the full force of the law.”

Raja Muda said they were ready to listen to the President and accept his views if they think these were right.

Unfortunately, the sultan’s brother did not agree with the President’s claim that they may have violated Philippine laws when they refused to leave the land.

“As President and chief executor of our laws, I have tasked an investigation into possible violations of laws by you, your followers, and collaborators engaged in this foolhardy act,” Aquino said Tuesday.

Reacting to this, Raja Muda said: “E papaano papa-arrest? Ano ang crime na na-commit namin? Sa aming paniwala, wala kaminng crime committed against the Philippine government. We are just doing what we believe is right …”

“We believe [we have not done anything wrong]. We believe, ang ginagawa namin is really right. I think there is no such law against fighting for what is right,” he further said.

Raja Muda insisted that they would not leave Sabah until the issue has been resolved.

And if the Malaysian authorities were to use force to disarm his men, Raja Muda said they have no other choice but defend themselves.

“Kapag sila pumasok sa amin, there’s no other way except to defend ourselves,” he said.

“Hindi nila magagawa yun…Kung magdi-disarm sila, that will be I think the time na lalaban kami,” he added.

Raja Muda said they came to Sabah not to make war especially with fellow Muslims in Malaysia.

“We come here…not to make war against them especially since we belong to the same religion,’ he said when asked what would be his message to the Malaysian government.

And to the residents of Sabah, Raja Muda’s message was: “ We did not come here to die here but we come here to live with them, to stay with them to love each other and enjoy the income of Sabah together.”

He then called on their families in the Philippines and all Filipinos not only to extend them any help but also to show “sympathy” for them.

“The Filipinos must also at least sympathize on our move because we are doing not only for us…This is also for all Filipinos, Christians and Muslims,” Raja Muda added.

Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas, in a press conference Wednesday, said the standoff has risked the lives and jobs of some 800,000 Filipinos staying there.

“Nagsalita na ang ating Pangulo ano at talagang nangingibabaw sa priority kaligtasan ng ating mga kababayan doon, more or less 180 ang ating mga kababayan doon na nasa peligro at ito yung nasa isip ng pangulo ano kaya nanawagan sya na pauwiin na sila ni Sultan Jamalul. Dagdag pa doon more or less 800,000 ang mga kababayan natin ang naghahanap buhay sa Sabah at saka sa Malaysia,” he told reporters.

Roxas said it was important that Malaysia and Philippines to continue good relations.

“Napakahalaga na manatiling maayos ang relasyon ng Pilipinas at saka ng Malaysia dahil ito hanapbuhay na ito ay malalagay sa alanganin. Madadamay sila, mga inosente sila. So eto yung nangingibabaw sa pag iisip ng ating pangulo. Unang una yung kaligtasan ng ating mga kababayan at yung pagpapatuloy ng paghahanapbuhay ng ating mga kapwa pilipino doon sa Sabah. Hindi ito ayon nga sa kanya hindi ito ang tamang paraan para tugunan itong claim ng pamilya kirma at meron namang ibang fora para dyan. Sa ngayon ang mahalaga ay yung ligtas at mapayapang paglutas nitong sitwasyon na ito,” he said.

President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday called on Sultan Jamalul to end the standoff in Lahud town in Sabah and leave peacefully but this was rejected.

Sam Miguel
02-28-2013, 10:21 AM
Instigators of sultan’s followers face probe
By Edu Punay

(The Philippine Star) | Update February 28, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - An investigation meant to track down the financiers of the incursion in Sabah by followers and armed guards of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III is underway, according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

De Lima said yesterday the government is verifying reports that Kiram sent his followers to Lahad Datu on Feb. 9 upon the instigation of several personalities whose identities are still being determined.

“We are including everyone in the investigation – the principal, accomplices and accessories,” De Lima said.

“The President can’t help but suspect that there might be other groups or personalities behind this adventure made by the group,” she pointed out.

De Lima said Sultan Kiram and his brother Datu Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram and some of their men may be charged with violation of Article 118 of Revised Penal Code or inciting to war or giving occasion or motive for reprisal.

“By their unlawful and unauthorized acts, these groups are provoking or giving occasion for a war and exposing our citizens to reprisals,” she stressed, adding that if found guilty they could face six to 12 years imprisonment.

“By doing so they are putting at risk the lives and safety of hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens in Sabah and jeopardizing the good relations that our country has with Malaysia,” she added.

She, however, clarified that everything is still “under study” and that there is no order yet for any arrest or filing of charges.

She also made clear that President Aquino’s directing the sultan to order his followers to leave Sabah did not mean an abandonment of the country’s Sabah claim.

“The administration has not made yet a definitive stand at this point on the claim of the sultanate. As we all know, this claim has been considered dormant because that has not been seriously pursued in the past. But the President’s appeal doesn’t mean we are already relinquishing or abandoning such claim,” she explained.

For Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima, Kiram’s followers may be arrested and charged if they return to the country still carrying their weapons.

“Once they get to the boundary of the Philippines, we will be arresting them if they are still carrying firearms, so that is illegal possession of firearms,” Purisima said.

PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr. said Kiram’s followers, like other Filipinos, are covered by the election gun ban.

“Actually, we are on top of the situation. We are monitoring the situation. We are securing Sultan Jamalul Kiram and his family,” Purisima said. “We are preventing more people from going to Sabah just to ease the tension.”

Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II renewed the government’s call for Kiram and his followers to come home.

Roxas said President Aquino’s main concern is the safety of about 800,000 Filipinos working in Malaysia and some 200 civilian supporters of Kiram.

He added that Kiram’s army is no match against Malaysia’s security forces. – Cecille Suerte Felipe

Sam Miguel
02-28-2013, 10:22 AM
Sabah deadline, P-Noy’s warning ignored

By Aurea Calica

(The Philippine Star) | Updated February 28, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Malaysian security forces are bracing for confrontation with armed followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III after the Filipinos defied a deadline set by Malaysia for them to leave the territory.

Malaysia’s The Star Online said it had interviewed the sultan’s brother Raja Muda Azzimudie Kiram over the phone, who said they were ready to face an attack.

“We are fine. We expect the Malaysian forces to attack today (Tuesday). We are ready to defend ourselves, we are not afraid,” The Star report said, quoting Azzimudie.

“We are not afraid because we know we are right. This is our land,” he said. “We are prepared, we are waiting. We will not attack (but) we will defend ourselves.”

In the report, Azzimudie said he would only take orders from his brother. On Tuesday, President Aquino made a televised appeal for Kiram and his followers to end their “foolhardy act” and return to the Philippines. Malaysian security forces are reportedly in position around Lahad Datu.

In the Star online report, Malaysia’s Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar said: “Maybe,” when asked if an attack would be made in 24 hours.

“We are set to end the standoff,” he said.

Azzimudie, meanwhile, admitted the food blockade is taking its toll on the sultan’s followers.

“We are already running out of food because of the blockade but we are not leaving. We will survive because we can eat leaves that animals eat. This is our homeland and we will live here,” he said.

At Malacañang, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Kirams cannot hold the government hostage and endanger the lives of 800,000 Filipinos in Malaysia by insisting on their supporters staying in Sabah.

“You don’t hold a gun to my head and negotiate. You know, it’s like, you put a gun to my head, then ask that we talk. That’s not the way decent people do negotiations. You want us to know your claim, you cooperate. The President has said, ‘come back home, and we will talk.’ But you’re asking me to talk to you while there are people in Sabah; that there’s a possible outcome of violence. That’s not acceptable to us,” Lacierda said.

“Remember, this is not about Sabah. The President’s concern is about the welfare of the 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah. Trade has been disrupted in that area. We are very concerned with the welfare of the 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah. That’s what the President is looking into,” Lacierda said.

“The Malaysian government has deadlines that they have set. In the Philippine government, we have exerted all efforts to extend the deadline. We have succeeded in extending the deadlines several times, that shows the resolve of this government to come up with a peaceful resolution,” Lacierda said.

“Now, with respect to the possible criminal offenses, that’s the reason why (Justice) Secretary Leila de Lima was also instructed by the President to look into criminal offenses. That’s their view, that no offense was committed. In our view, Sultan Jamalul Kiram – by ordering his brother to go to Sabah – has endangered the relations between Malaysia and the Philippines,” Lacierda said.

“The President has always said that relations between the Philippines and Malaysia have always been colored by the issue of Sabah.”

He said the government had been trying to continuously reach out to the Kirams and as President Aquino had disclosed in Cagayan de Oro, acting Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Mujiv Hataman was one of the government’s emissaries. Lacierda said members of the peace panel with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) also met with them.

Aquino said Hataman reported on his meeting with the Kirams at 2 a.m. on Tuesday, after which they worked on his televised statement until 3 a.m.

He read the statement on national television at 8 a.m.

Lacierda believes it is reasonable for the government to ask for time to study the country’s Sabah claim, which has been dormant for years.

“We have already compiled the historical claim. We have to study the policy issue, which is a bit more complicated because it involves relations with our neighbor Malaysia,” he said.

“We also have to look at the legal claim. That’s why it is being studied. The perspective is broader. The President’s perspective as the head of government and as the brother, or the father, of the entire Filipino people is broader, his concerns are wider. His concern is the Filipinos in Sabah,” Lacierda said.

Foreign policy

While there had been concerns that the standoff might derail the peace talks with the MILF, Lacierda agreed with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process that the issue was a matter of foreign policy and must be discussed separately from the framework agreement with the MILF.

Lacierda explained the Sabah claim was not included in the talks because “it’s a foreign policy issue.”

“We’re talking about the peace situation here right now. So when they were consulted… we discussed with them the peace process, the discussions on the peace process, among others. That’s the reason why we were able to include in the Bangsamoro framework agreement a reference to traditional leadership and customary laws,” he said.

“There is a sovereign claim of the republic and the private property rights of the heirs. Those are going to be studied,” Lacierda said.

He also said the Department of Justice is studying the legal basis of the claim, while the Department of Foreign Affairs is looking into the policy issue.

The Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office meanwhile is dealing with historical research, he said.

Lacierda noted they would also have to take into consideration the statement of Jamalul’s wife Fatima that in 1989, the sultan and his council revoked the authority given to the Philippine government to negotiate on their behalf.

“It will revert back to the Sultanate of Sulu. That’s what Fatima said. But nevertheless, President Aquino asked that the Sabah claim be studied. In fact, some have submitted documents, like he mentioned, two volumes of documents, regarding the Sabah claim,” Lacierda said.

Extension

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said yesterday he had conveyed to Malaysia Tuesday night the government’s request for an extension of deadline for the Filipinos in Lahad Datu to leave the area.

“I put through a request for another deadline. I said we should be given more time, precisely for processing that information and to give the Kirams a chance to think about what the President had said,” Del Rosario told reporters in a chance interview. “I asked for several days. I did not specify.”

The secretary said they had received information that the situation in Lahad Datu was quiet.

The DFA said it is now the responsibility of the sultan to make sure the situation doesn’t get out of hand.

“What we are trying to do is convince, urge and appeal to Sultan Jamalul to bring home their people from Lahad Datu so that when they are here then we could have a dialogue and consultation with them to discuss their grievances, including that issue,” DFA spokeman Raul Hernandez said.

“We appeal to the Sultan of Sulu to order his men to come back as soon as possible and then when they are here already the government can sit down with them to discuss their grievances,” he said.

“The ball now is in the court of the Sultan of Sulu and it is his responsibility to make sure that no harm will happen to his people who are in Lahad Datu, and the only way to do this is to order them to withdraw and come back to their homes in Mindanao,” he added.

The DFA sent on Monday Undersecretary for Special Concerns Jose Brillantes to Malaysia to coordinate with Malaysian authorities regarding the standoff.

Del Rosario also requested the Malaysian government to allow a humanitarian ship to dock in Lahad Datu to bring food to the Filipinos and fetch those who want to go back to their families in the Philippines. With Pia Lee-Brago, Jaime Laude, Roel Pareño, Lino de la Cruz, and Jose Rodel Clapano

Sam Miguel
02-28-2013, 10:23 AM
Bungling

FIRST PERSON

By Alex Magno

(The Philippine Star) | Updated February 28, 2013 - 12:00am

If the whole incident was not so fraught with danger bungling on all sides could lead to bloodshed, the insertion of an armed Tausog group into Sabah would otherwise be comic.

If the Sultan of Sulu intended to draw international attention to his family’s forgotten claim to Sabah, that goal was no doubt achieved. He blindsided both the Philippine and Malaysian governments. He caused enough political discomfort on all sides, reviving a question most conveniently consigned to the archives.

The point was clearly made a day or two after the Sultanate’s “royal army” landed at Lahad Datu town, across the modern-day border. Nearly three weeks after the landing, however, the “royal army” was still entrenched and Malaysian authorities threaten to assault the small force.

Since the “royal army” landed in territory they claim, the most urgent matter at hand for both Manila and Kuala Lumpur was to find a way to dissipate the crisis and convince the Sultan to withdraw his force. The Malaysians, it seems, presumed it was Manila’s problem to negotiate with her citizens and achieve the withdrawal without drawing Malaysian security forces into hostilities. Manila, however, imagined Malaysia will deal with the matter herself, since the armed intruders were on the federation’s territory.

If Kuala Lumpur gave this matter, happening in its backwaters, too much importance, that would magnify the dead claim. They enforced a food blockade and hoped the starving intruders will just go away.

If Manila took the Sultan’s claims too seriously, that will create too many complications in our foreign and domestic policies. The Sultanate, after all, has no standing whatsoever in our republican framework. We recognize no hereditary titles. An oligarchy rules us, not an aristocracy. All our dynasts are duly elected.

Understandably, there was foot-dragging on both sides. The problem, however, would not go away.

Last Tuesday, 18 days after the “royal army” landed at Lahad Datu, President Aquino finally materialized at a podium to speak on the matter. He referred to a study on the claim being submitted to him, voluminous and single-spaced. He had not yet read the study. Remember, the Atimonan massacre report is still on his desk for study as well.

For good measure, he admitted a letter sent by the Sultan at the dawn of his presidency was lost in the “bureaucratic maze.” The admission simply indicated the very low standing of the sultanate and its claim in the administration’s scheme of things.

Adding insult to injury, Aquino threatened to file cases against the Sultan. He added intrigue to insult by talking about the Sultan’s financial difficulties, raising questions about who really financed the “royal army” expedition. For good measure, Aquino questioned the Sultan’s accession to the throne on which he now sits — a matter irrelevant to the present crisis.

Whatever the legal standing of the Sultan and the validity of his claims, the point at the moment was that he was the key broker in extricating the force inserted into Sabah. Only Kiram can order the armed force to go back home. Only he could most feasibly defuse the situation.

Instead of assuaging the Sultan and winning his cooperation in the midst of a delicate situation, Aquino (and his emissaries too) bullied the royals, threatening them even as they held the key to defusing the crisis. The Sultan, as a consequence, took a harder line, refusing to withdraw his “royal army.”

Should this situation end up in tragedy, it will be due to the appalling lack of finesse in the way Manila handled things.

Roubini

Nouriel Roubini is the equivalent of a rock star in the world of economics and public policy. He correctly predicted the 2008 meltdown of the US housing market and the earthshaking financial consequences of such an event. He is mentioned high among the most influential global thinkers of this time. He served as senior economist during the Clinton administration and since 2009 has been a senior adviser to Timothy Geithner at the US Treasury.

Roubini was in Manila earlier this month to keynote the Philippines Investment Summit 2013.

In his talks, the famous economist highlighted the key elements of the Philippine success story. From the depths of the debt crisis during the eighties, the Philippines worked down its debt-to-GDP ratio to 25.6%. This is better that Thailand’s 36.3%, Malaysia’s 27.7% and Indonesia’s 27.9%. The numbers should continue to improve as our net earnings remain above our net borrowing.

In addition, debt service declined from 37% of the national budget in 1997 (the year of the Asian financial crisis) to 16.6% today. After over a decade of balance of payments surpluses, we have now amassed gross international reserves of over $85 billion. That is over 11 times what we had in 1997.

Adept fiscal management now keeps the budget deficit at only 2.3% of GDP while inflation remains benign as about 3%. Our banking system is adequately capitalized.

In a word, major indicators show the Philippine economy is healthier than others currently enjoying investment-grade ratings. One major reason we have not yet won investment grade status is the comparatively low tax effort. From the current 15% of GDP, we need to raise this to 20%. We likewise need to convince the world that the boom-bust cycles of the past is well behind us.

Roubini, after delivering his keynote speech, paid a call on Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa at the Palace. The meeting was long and hopefully instructive. The Executive Secretary plays a strategic role in moving the policies we need to have in place to keep abreast with the rest of the world.

Sam Miguel
03-01-2013, 07:56 AM
What’s inside Kiram’s lost letter to Aquino

By Arlyn dela Cruz

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:07 am | Friday, March 1st, 2013

What was in that letter so that Sultan Jamalul Kiram III could say that had the President paid attention to it, he and his followers would not have taken matters in their own hands?

It was lost not in translation but in the appreciation of its urgency and significance.

That is what happened to the letter sent to President Aquino in 2010 by Agbimuddin Kiram, crown prince of the sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, expressing his clan’s stand on the Philippine claim to the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah and the peace process in Muslim Mindanao.

After congratulating and expressing his clan’s support for the new Aquino administration, Agbimuddin informed Aquino about the creation of the Interim Supreme Royal Ruling Council (ISRRC) under the sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo as a result of the series of consultations in Simunul, Tawi-Tawi; KM-4 Indanan, Sulu; and Kawit, Zamboanga City, on June 20, 25 and 26, 2010.

There is probably another reason why the letter got lost in Malacañang.

The letter was dated June 28, 2010, two days before Aquino took his oath as President. Technically, then, he was not yet officially the sitting President.

The letter was coursed through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) but since Secretary Teresita Deles had not yet assumed office at the time, another officer there received the letter and it was this officer who decided it was “not urgent.”

Dismissed as such, the letter was relegated to the pile of papers deemed not needing presidential attention.

The Opapp officer who made the decision was considered an expert in Muslim affairs.

After the Sabah standoff began three weeks ago and the letter was mentioned in the early reports of the Inquirer, a source in Malacañang said the President inquired about it. Aquino was reportedly disappointed to learn that no one kept the letter or a copy of it.

The same source, who asked not to be identified, quoted the President as saying: “Next time, when a letter is addressed to me, give it to me so I can read it.”

Seeking guidance

Specifically, Agbimuddin in the letter asked for guidance from the new President on what course of action the ISRRC should take, especially involving the Sabah claim.

“With highest esteem, may we inform His Excellency that during the consultation process, we asked our supporters what action, under the guiding light of your administration, the ISRRC of the sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo would take or adopt anent the Sabah issue, which became the national contract between the government of the Philippines and the sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo pursuant to the filing of such claim in the United Nations against Great Britain and Malaysia in 1962,” Agbimuddin said.

Anticipating Aquino’s participation in international forums such as the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) leaders’ summit, Agbimuddin stated his clan’s position on the Sabah claim to guide the President in discussions on the issue in meetings with representatives of Malaysia.

International forums

Agbimuddin wanted Aquino to articulate two points for the clan: The special power of attorney given by the sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo to the Philippine government was revoked in August 1989 for lack of political will to push forward the claim by previous administrations from the time of then President Diosdado Macapagal, and the ISRRC had been legally established instead, taking over all actions pertinent to the Sabah claim.

Agbimuddin was appointed chairman of the ISRRC by his elder brother, the sultan, in June 2010.

Ignored for five decades

Abraham Idjirani, secretary general and spokesman of the sultanate of Sulu, said the appointment of Agbimuddin as ISRRC chairman was the basis for the crown prince’s exercising “authority” over Sabah, thus the six-hour “journey back home” to Sabah on Feb. 11 (most reports date the Sabah trip to Feb. 9).

In his letter to Aquino, Agbimuddin expressed his clans’ exasperation at being ignored through five decades of the discussions of the Sabah claim.

Agbimuddin said the heirs of the sultanate suspected that vested interests in the previous administrations were behind the claim’s being denied the attention it deserved.

The letter ended with the clan’s expression of hope of seeing “a change in the treatment of the Sabah issue” under Aquino’s administration.

Agbimuddin also said any treatment of the Sabah claim must be “consistent with the laws of the Philippines” and in consideration of the sultanate’s “legal, historic rights, cultural traditions and heritage.”

First united decision

Jamalul himself wrote to the President in 2011 and in 2012. When the sultanate received no response, the Kiram brothers met in November last year and agreed to the issuance of a “royal decree” authorizing Agbimuddin’s journey home to Sabah.

Idjirani said it was the first united decision of the Kiram brothers.

“They may have argued many times on policies and actions but the sultan and his brothers were never at odds as to their stance that Sabah belongs to the sultanate of Sulu,” Idjirani said.

Sam Miguel
03-01-2013, 08:00 AM
Gov’t intel eyes 3 groups abetting Sulu sultan’s claim

By Nikko Dizon

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:29 am | Friday, March 1st, 2013

Whether the heirs of the sultanate of Sulu acted on their own to reclaim Sabah or were instigated by an external force to do so, one thing is certain, according to government intelligence sources: It was a business that proved too big for the heirs to handle on their own.

The sources said that the Philippine government’s policy on Sabah is to keep it in the back burner.

But apparently “some people” want to push it forward now. And why now, at this time, is one of the questions government intelligence is looking into.

The sources consistently mentioned three groups that appear to have taken advantage of the decision of the Kirams to pursue their Sabah claim.

“These are groups that wanted to ride on the Kirams’ pursuit with their own interests in mind,” one of the sources said.

Another source added: “There are a lot who can gain from this, not just in the Philippines but in Malaysia as well.”

These “external factors,” as an Inquirer source described the groups, are one small faction that is in it for the money, an anti-Aquino administration group, and the Malaysian political opposition.

“The Kirams planned to pursue their claim as early as last year. But they went to Lahad Datu also on the instigation of these groups,” the intelligence officer said.

The small group supposedly goaded the Kirams to ask Malaysia for a higher rent on Sabah. If Malaysia gives in, this small group would allegedly have a share of the increase.

The anti-administration group simply wants to discredit President Aquino and is using the peace process as a cause of disenchantment for the Kirams.

“All those who do not like P-Noy (the President’s nickname) have joined forces. This is one way to really test how this administration will react (to such an issue). Whatever happens in Malaysia, there will be a backlash on us,” one source said.

“In a way, whoever wants to disrupt the peace process or the gains of President Aquino has already won,” the source added.

The third group is allegedly the Malaysian political opposition, which is gearing up for general elections that may be called before June.

The intelligence officer said that one member of the Malaysian political opposition allied with Anwar Ibrahim was running for a post in Sabah.

“Apparently, this politician was one of those who spoke with the Kirams. He supposedly gave the opposition’s support to the Kirams’ claim to Sabah,” the source said.

November meeting

The source also believed that in their meeting in November last year, the Kirams decided to “reclaim Sabah or at least ask for a compensation for Sabah that is commensurate to the land’s value today, and for the royal family to be given due recognition by Malaysia.”

But it is being Tausug that is keeping Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, his family, and their subjects stubbornly pressing their renewed claim to Sabah, even to the extent of defying President Aquino, one of the Inquirer sources said.

“This is the last stand of Sultan Jamalul. Being Tausug, they already gave their word they would pursue their claim. This is now do or die for them just to keep their word of honor,” the source, a senior military officer, told the Inquirer.

But for another security administrator analyzing the events of the past three weeks, the Kirams appear to be quite edgy of late.

“They are confused. The government is hopeful that we can buy more time, find a diplomatic way out,” the source said, referring to the government’s efforts to help settle the standoff between Malaysian security forces and an armed group led by Jamalul’s brother, Agbimuddin Kiram, in Tanduao village in Lahad Datu town now in its third week.

Kiram unity

The Inquirer’s sources are from the diplomatic and defense establishments. They asked not to be named as they were not authorized to speak to journalists about their analysis of developments in the so-called journey home to Sabah of the Kirams.

The source said the Kirams decided to unite because they felt left out of the peace negotiations between the Aquino administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which signed a premilinary peace deal last October.

Calling gov’t attention

“The Kirams wanted to get the attention of the Philippine government,” the source said.

“For so many years, the family felt they have been exploited in politics. Sultan Jamalul was goaded to run for senator in 2010 but he lost. Then their letter to President Aquino (in 2010 before he assumed office) got lost,” the source said.

The source said the Kirams and their followers “conceived the details of the plan to go to Lahad Datu” in late January this year.

“In February, a small group of the Kirams’ followers left for Lahad Datu, followed by Raja Muda Agbimuddin,” the source said.

The estimated 70 firearms now in the hands of the group holed up in Tanduao are owned by residents in Lahad Datu, Tausug and Badjao holding Malaysian identification cards, the source said.

Malaysian security forces have encircled Agbimuddin’s group but are holding action, with the grace period for the group to leave having been extended three times and a fourth being requested by the Philippine government.

Malaysians careful

The Inquirer’s military source said the impasse continues because the Malaysians are extra careful in dealing with Agbimmudin’s group.

“They are all Muslims and they know that if there is violence, it would go on forever. There are 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah. It would be a huge problem in Sabah if violence erupts. The Malaysian security forces may end up dealing with guerrillas or a rido,” the source said, using a Muslim term for clan war.

Sam Miguel
03-01-2013, 08:01 AM
DOJ readies raps vs Kirams, Sabah followers

By Christine O. Avendaño

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:28 am | Friday, March 1st, 2013

The sultan of Sulu and others responsible for the Sabah standoff are facing investigation and possible charges for a crisis that has entered its third week.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday told reporters that President Aquino had tasked a fact-finding committee to look into possible violations of the law by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, his brother Agbimuddin Kiram, their followers and their collaborators in the occupation of Tanduao village in Lahad Datu town, Sabah.

De Lima said subpoenas were being prepared by the joint fact-finding committee of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

“As we speak right now, they are preparing various subpoenas and invitations. Subpoenas to be issued to those we think are involved and therefore can be prospective or would-be respondents in the charges to be filed later, if warranted. And invitations to those who can serve as resource persons and can provide certain information… who may not be necessarily involved but have information or leads that can guide our probers,” De Lima said.

Among the charges that Jamalul and his followers may possibly face include inciting to war or giving motives for reprisal; illegal possession of firearms; illegal assembly and violation of the gun ban imposed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), she said.

Still being studied is the possible filing of rebellion charges against the group, according to De Lima, who said this move needed to be evaluated by the joint fact-finding committee.

“For each crime, there are elements. I’m not sure if all the elements of rebellion or inciting to sedition are present here,” she said.

The Sulu sultan has continued to defy President Aquino’s appeal to him to order home his 235 followers, some of whom are armed, from Sabah.

The President had given Kiram’s group until Wednesday to return home or face the consequences, including being charged with inciting to war or giving motives for reprisal for their actions in Sabah.

Report soon

After the latest deadline for Jamalul’s followers to leave Sabah lapsed on Tuesday, Malacañang sought another extension of “several days” of the grace period given by the Malaysian government for Jamalul’s followers to leave Tanduao and return to Sulu.

In a Feb. 26 order by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) released Thursday, the fact-finding body tasked to investigate the circumstances of the Sabah standoff was required to submit as soon as possible its report “whether preliminary or final, on its findings, and to forthwith prepare and file the appropriate criminal charges, if warranted, against those who may be found to be criminally liable.”

De Lima made it clear that President Aquino had given the sultan’s followers the chance to return home peacefully during the first few days of the crisis.

“Had they returned earlier, it was possible they would not have been charged,” she said, noting this was one of the options that the government discussed earlier into the standoff.

“But now that they have taken a hardline stance despite the personal appeal of the President, then it’s hard to say now that if they return there will be no cases awaiting them,” she added.

De Lima also said that the government wants to have very “comprehensive” findings so that when the cases are filed, they will be “airtight” and that all of those involved are charged.

She said this was “better” than charging “piecemeal” where the “participants by inducement are charged first before the participants by direct participation.”

De Lima said the joint committee was basically looking at filing charges that have “extraterritorial” application.

For instance, she said the charge of inciting to war or giving motives for reprisal in violation of Article 118 of the Revised Penal Code had extraterritorial application.

De Lima cited in news reports that the standoff was now threatening the barter trade in Mindanao and threatening the livelihood of other Filipinos in Malaysia who fear reprisals by Malaysian authorities.

She said another possible charge is that of illegal possession of firearms, which she stressed is a crime in the Philippines.

But she said Malaysia may have laws that penalize unlicensed firearms.

UN help

Representatives of the United Nations met with Jamalul on Thursday about extending humanitarian assistance to his followers holed up in Tanduao.

Jamalul did not tell reporters the extent of his discussions with the UN representatives, but his spokesman, Abraham Idjirani, said the sultan’s guests committed humanitarian assistance only and that the talks did not touch on the standoff.

Idjirani said the sultanate hoped the meeting with the UN representatives was the beginning of a “road to attaining peace.”

Jamalul himself told reporters that he did not meet with any representatives from Malacanang and that the meeting with the UN representatives was “more in favor of us.”

Agbimuddin’s group in Tanduao remains adamant about staying there.

He told a radio interview that all negotiations should be through his brother, Jamalul, in Manila.

No change

“If this happens here in the same incident (where) Malaysian authorities will decide to file charges against them and arrest them and even if they have cases here, then we might not be able to get them (to come here immediately),” she said.

De Lima, meanwhile, said the government was also interested to find out who were behind this incident, who are its supporters and who are the provocateurs.

“We have certain information (about supporters and provocateurs) and I have asked the NBI-PNP-CIDG to pursue it,” she said.

The standoff in Sabah remains unchanged for the third week on Thursday.

Numerous reports have emerged of an imminent attack by security forces on the group. One report claimed that several soldiers came close to Tanduao where the followers of the Sulu sultan are holed up.

A heavy presence of security personnel was observed at various strategic locations surrounding the seaside village late Wednesday.

Sabah police also declined to comment if shots were fired in the area on Wednesday evening although nearby villagers claimed to have heard them.

The Sulu group leader, Agbimuddin Kiram, told Philippine media that his men had fired warning shots after spotting what he claimed were six Malaysian security personnel entering the village.

While claiming that they came to Sabah in peace, Agbimuddin warned that his followers were willing to “fight to the death” if provoked.—With reports from Marlon Ramos in Manila and The Star/Asia News Network

Sam Miguel
03-04-2013, 11:10 AM
Fighting in Sabah rages

5 more Malaysians, 2 Filipinos killed

By Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:00 am | Monday, March 4th, 2013

Supporters of the sultan of Sulu struck back on Saturday night, killing five Malaysian policemen and seizing four local government officials in an attack that indicated an escalation of violence to other parts of Sabah after the killing of 12 of the sultan’s followers in a clash with Malaysian security forces in Lahad Datu on Friday.

Abraham Idjirani, spokesman for the sultanate of Sulu, said an Islamic religious leader and his four sons were killed in the fighting in the seaside village of Simunul in Semporna town, 300 kilometers from Tanduao village in Lahad Datu, the site of a 3-week-old standoff between Malaysian security forces and a group of followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.

Idjirani said two “highest” military officials, one police officer, and one “highest civilian” officer were being held by Jamalul’s supporters affiliated with Alianapia Kiram, a brother of the sultan.

Reports coming from Malaysia said two supporters of the Sulu sultan were killed in the shootout with policemen.

Idjirani said the group of sultanate followers led by Agbimuddin Kiram, another brother of Jamalul, had “occupied and controlled” Semporna, which is populated by Filipinos from Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and the Zamboanga peninsula.

Alim Hashim Mudjahab, chairman of the Islamic Council Committee of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), told the Inquirer in Zamboanga City that supporters of the sultan attacked a police station in Semporna on Saturday night.

“They freed more than a hundred Filipino Muslims who were arrested on Friday and they even captured the Malaysian police chief and his colleagues,” Mudjahab said.

“We are worried because it seems that these reports are not important to the Philippine government,” he said.

In Tawau, Mudjahab said, followers of the sultan attacked a convoy of Malaysian military trucks, “hurling dynamite commonly used for fishing.”

“As we are talking now (11 a.m. Sunday), tension is spreading as far as Sandakan and there are reports that some Tausug residing in Kota Kinabalu are ready to fight the Malaysian authorities,” he said.

Mudjahab said he received the information from “MNLF supporters in those areas.”

But Lt. Gen. Rey Ardo, chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said he had not received information about an escalation of Friday’s violence in Lahad Datu to other parts of Sabah.

Police raid

Idjirani said the violence spread to Semporna when Malaysian policemen pretending to round up undocumented Filipinos stormed Simunul village in search of relatives of the sultan.

He said the policemen shot one Imam Maas and his four sons and wounded one Imam Jul when they learned that they were taking care of the sultan’s relatives in the area, Alianapia and Amir Bahar.

The killings angered the villagers, who attacked the authorities and seized four Malaysian officials.

Idjirani said the sultanate of Sulu blamed the fresh violence on the Malaysian government, which, like the Philippine government, refused to deal with the Kirams on their claim to Sabah.

“This escalation (of the violence) is the result of the hardline policy of the Federation of Malaysia of not [sitting down to] discuss the standoff in Lahad Datu [for] a peaceful resolution of this issue, so that, like Malacañang, the sultanate of Sulu is washing its hands [of] this conflict now escalating in Sabah,” Idjirani told a news conference at the sultan’s home in Taguig City.

He said Jamalul, who learned that 10 of his followers were captured during the clash in Tanduao only on Saturday morning, asked his supporters in Semporna to take care and feed the Malaysian officials they had seized.

Jamalul did not call for the release of the Malaysian officials, as they could be used as witnesses to the “atrocities” committed by the Malaysian government, Idjirani said.

He said the sultan’s supporters in Semporna could not be blamed for their action because it was the Malaysian police who raided the town.

“These are unorganized efforts of the people, who can no longer stand the actions that the Malaysian government has been taking against them since 1982,” Idjirani said.

Jamalul’s daughter, Princess Jacel Kiram, said the people of Semporna would decide whether the four Malaysian officials should be released.

She said the people were not violent. If they were, they would have killed the four officials, she said.

Idjirani said people from Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and the Zamboanga peninsula were departing for Sabah to help Agbimuddin’s group.

He said he did not know for sure whether those people, who were going to Sabah without consulting the sultan, were armed. It is possible, however, that they are armed, he said.

Malaysian story

Jacel said her father was calling on his supporters to stay calm. The sultan, she said, was “doing everything he could” to solve the Sabah crisis peacefully.

Reports coming from Malaysia indicated that it was the sultan’s supporters who started the violence in Semporna.

Malaysian Inspector General of Police Ismail Omar said five policemen were killed when they were ambushed at a village on stilts in Semporna late Saturday.

Ismail said a police team had entered Simunul village in Semporna in a hunt for a group of gunmen when they were fired upon.

He said two of the gunmen were killed in the shootout with the police team.

Police have encircled the village to track down the remaining gunmen, Ismail said.

He said the security forces were on the hunt for 10 men, three of whom were armed and seen wearing military fatigues at two villages in the east-coast district of Kunak at about 10 p.m. on Saturday.

Ismail said police were trying to establish whether the Semporan and Kunak incidents were related to the Tanduao standoff that turned violent on Friday.

He said police arrested three men who were trying to slip through a security cordon around Tanduao late Saturday.

The three, who were armed with knives, were detained for questioning, Ismail said.

More security forces arrived in Semporna on Sunday, leading to evacuations of residents for fear of more fighting.

Filipinos were among the people leaving the town, reports coming from Malaysia said.

Radio reports from Sabah said a Filipino man armed with an M-16 rifle was beaten to death by residents of a village near Semporna Sunday morning.

The reports quoted villagers as saying the man was a follower of the sultan of Sulu.

The Semporna police chief, Mohamad Firdaus Francis Abdullah, had no comment about the incident.

Surprised

Acting Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said he was surprised when told about reports of fighting in Sabah.

“What? Where did those [reports] [come] from?” Hataman said when contacted for comment by the Inquirer.

Al Tillah, policy adviser to the sultanate of Sulu, said President Aquino had created a team to handle the Sabah crisis.

He said the team was composed of Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, Ardo and Hataman.

“The Sabah issue is not a military issue,” Tillah said. “It’s [a] political issue that requires diplomatic action.”—With reports from Julie S. Alipala and Alan A. Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao; and The Star/Asia News Network

Sam Miguel
03-04-2013, 11:11 AM
Sabah shootout: Timeline to slaughter

By Amando Doronila

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:08 am | Monday, March 4th, 2013

In just 10 days, the standoff in Sabah has spiraled from a firefight between Malaysian security forces and followers of the sultan of Sulu who landed in the village of Tanduao, Lahad Datu town, on Feb. 9, into a war of extermination mounted by both the Philippine and Malaysian governments, conspiring with each other, to evict the sultan’s men under siege in their enclave.

In their first encounter in the morning of Friday, 12 of the 235 men led by the brother of Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III were killed when superior Malaysian forces attacked them.

The Filipinos sailed to Sabah from Tawi-Tawi island, in the Sulu Archipelago, to press the sultanate’s bid to reclaim its ancestral land in the former British North Borneo.

This is a curious conflict where the Philippine government has gone to war against its own citizens from the Muslim southern region, assisting Malaysia in its mailed-fist action to expel the sultan’s followers after they refused to heed pressure/ultimatum from Manila and Kuala Lumpur authorities to leave and return to the Sulu Archipelago or face dire consequences.

This Malaysian-Philippine collaboration—in which the Philippine government has played second fiddle and subservient to Kuala Lumpur—in the gang-up on the recalcitrant sultanate’s followers was clearly evident on Day One of the hostilities.

The first wire services and press reports on the shootout in Sabah on March 1 said that Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Raul Hernandez told reporters in a press briefing that Malaysian Ambassador Mohammad Zamri Mohammad Kassim met with Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario at 2 p.m. of that day to inform him that “the standoff has ended.”

The DFA apparently took this report on its face value. There were no attempts from the DFA to inquire whether the attack on the sultan’s men was carried out with maximum restraint.

Although details were to follow shortly, the DFA appeared overly anxious to see the end of the standoff. It was echoing the position of Malaysia, or acting as an extension of the Malaysian Embassy in Manila.

The Malaysians told the DFA they had resolved the standoff their own way—at the cost of 12 Filipino lives. The standoff turned into violence after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak declared that his patience had “run out” after the sultan’s men refused to obey demands for them to leave Sabah.

Preserving ties

It was only later that President Aquino ordered an investigation to determine what really happened in Sabah in the face of conflicting reports from Malaysian authorities and the sultanate’s followers.

Apparently disturbed by the violent turn of events and its implications on Philippine-Malaysian relations and the administration’s initiative to set up a Bangsamoro region in Mindanao to end decades of Moro insurgency, the President held emergency meetings with senior Cabinet members to take steps to prevent the clashes in Sabah from further spreading.

Malaysia has acted as an intermediary to facilitate the sealing of the Compromise Framework Agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

A spokesperson for the sultan of Sulu, Abraham Idjirani, denounced the raid on the group led by Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of Sultan Kiram, as a “massacre.” The “first shot was fired by the Malaysian commando forces,” according to Idjirani.

Before the clash, representatives of the sultan were on their way to the Malaysian Embassy for an “informal dialogue” with the Malaysian ambassador.” But reports of the clash in Tanduao came while the group was on the road. The sultan recalled the representatives “because the shooting had started.”

The Star newspaper of Malaysia reported that Prime Minister Najib had given security forces authority to take whatever action they thought necessary to end the standoff. Najib claimed that Agbimuddin’s group had ventured 1.5 kilometers from the area they had occupied.

Earlier, Najib warned Agbimuddin’s group to leave before the authorities took action. “Do not test our patience, our patience has reached the limit,” he said.

Sabah Police Commissioner Hamza Taib said the shootout began when the sultan’s followers fired at security forces as they were tightening their cordon around Tanduao.

“The intruders fired at us, then we returned fire,” he said. “As a result of the fire, two of my men died, three were injured and … 12 intruders died.”

Statement of capitulation

Agbimuddin told radio station dzBB in Manila that Malaysian police surrounding Tanduao opened fire at midmorning and his group fought back.

“They suddenly came in,” he said. “We fought back to defend ourselves.”

The threat of further bloodshed in Tanduao village—even the extermination of the sultan’s men still holed up there—loomed larger as Malaysia issued an ultimatum on Saturday that it would take “drastic action” against the sultan’s men.

President Aquino, as in the first shootout, poured oil on the fire, took the side of Malaysia and sent a message to the besieged group: “Surrender now, without conditions.”

The statement had two effects: It not only emboldened Malaysia to carry out its threat; it also made the sultan more defiant. Referring to the President’s statement, Sultan Jamalul said: “The only thing they know is surrender. Why should we surrender in our own home? They did nothing in their own home.”

Agbimuddin, the leader of the cornered men, sent a text message to the sultan, saying his remaining men (224) were “prepared to die.” The spokesperson for the sultanate said that Agbimuddin’s group went to Sabah to compel a peaceful resolution of the sultanate’s claim to Sabah.

The Malaysian prime minister told reporters that after talking with Mr. Aquino on Friday night, he decided to give Agbimmudin’s group two choices: “Surrender or face the action of our security forces.”

Succumbing to the Malaysian threat, the President, rather than trying to restrain the hands of the Malaysians from further mayhem, gave them clearance. He issued the statement of capitulation:

“To our citizens in Lahad Datu, from the very start, our objective has been to avoid the loss of lives and the shedding of blood. However, you did not join us in this objective. Because of the path you have taken, what we have been trying to avoid has come to pass. If you have grievances, the path you chose was wrong. The just, and indeed, the only correct thing for you to do is to surrender.”

With that the President has driven the last nail on the coffin of the Philippine claim to Sabah. What he didn’t say to the sultan’s men was: If you get slaughtered by the Malaysians, that’s your fault. Condolences.

Sam Miguel
03-04-2013, 11:14 AM
Tragic farce, farcical tragedy

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:04 pm | Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

The news was spotty at first. Toward noon of Friday, a report flashed on TV that said a firefight had erupted between the Malaysian security forces and the Kiram group in Sabah with minor casualties. Shortly later a correction was made that there was no firefight at all, the Malaysians had only fired warning shots. Still later, yet another correction was made that a firefight had indeed taken place with undetermined casualties. By nightfall, it was definite. The Malaysian security forces had stormed the Kiram group’s lair, killing 12 while suffering two casualties.

At the end of it all, I saw the Lapiang Malaya.

The Lapiang Malaya, for those who are not old enough to remember it, was a political-religious group that preached freedom for the poor along with the Second Coming of Christ. It contested the presidential elections in 1957, but its leader, Valentin de los Santos, expectedly lost.

Ten years later, in 1967, finding its dreams, or illusions, of achieving its goals thwarted by electoral politics, the group marched on Malacañang armed with bolos. It was blocked by heavily armed police. But believing in the rightness of its cause and the power of its amulets, the group charged at the defenders. It met with a hail of bullets which, alas, the group’s members proved only too vulnerable to. Some 33 of them died while 47 were wounded.

It was an event that began as farce and ended as tragedy. It shocked the nation, the Philippine Constabulary—and President Ferdinand Marcos—being blamed for excessive use of force. The furor eventually died down and was replaced by a general feeling of sadness and public wonderment about how people could be possessed by such a fantastical view of the world they would embark on a batty enterprise like this.

Arguably, the Kiram incursion into Sabah does not owe to cultist stirrings and millenarian aspirations. Arguably, the Kiram incursion into Sabah is more rooted, or so they think, in terra firma: on law and document, history and treaty. Arguably, the Kiram incursion into Sabah, with its more formidably armed component, poses a graver problem than did De los Santos’ bolo- and amulet-wielding ragtag band.

But for all that, it shares a great deal of the spirit of De los Santos’ deed. It had fringe written all over it. It had bizarre written all over it. It had deluded written all over it.

Certainly, it had futility and doom written all over it. What in God’s, or Allah’s name, did the Kiram group expect to happen from the decision to forcibly lay claim on Sabah? How in God’s, or Allah’s, name did the Kiram group expect it to end? That at the end of a long day it could pressure Malaysia to give up Sabah to them? That armed with the might of right and the right of might, they could force the Malaysian government to at least discuss terms with them? That as a result of their willingness to die to the last man for what they believed in, the Malaysian government would not in fact oblige them?

Last Friday night, AM radio had a slew of commentators who went to town lambasting government for the way it handled the Sabah crisis which resulted in this bloody pass. It was government’s cavalier attitude toward the Sultanate of Sulu, they said, that produced this perfectly preventable tragedy. Well, while I agree that government has its share of officials who are innately arrogant and dismissive, whose utterances subtract from the sum of human knowledge rather than add to it, or add to the problem rather than to the solution, the question remains: What could government have done to make things better?

If a group of Malaysians armed to the teeth suddenly materialized in some part of Sulu, claiming it in the name of the Muslim brotherhood, or the universal Islamic church, the ummah, that transcends national borders, how would we react? If a group of Malaysians armed with the Koran or some document from the first millennium after Christ, or after Mohammad, demanded that the Sultanate of Sulu proclaim solidarity with them as they have the Muslims of Sulu squarely behind them, how would we react?

Indeed, more to the point, if the Chinese armed with their claim on the whole of the South China Sea and the islands therein according to ancient maps suddenly occupied the whole of the Spratlys and demanded tong from merchant vessels for the use of the sea routes, how would we react? The only difference being that unlike the Malaysian government, we would be a lot more powerless to challenge it. But we would be exceptionally furious. And we could always express our anger and protestations, our ngitngit and himutok, in the most ardent ways.

Same question: How did the Kiram group expect the Malaysian government to react? How in fact did it expect the Philippine government, whom it had just put on the spot, to react? Give the group its heartfelt blessings and support?

People have been killed, Filipinos have been killed. That is a cause for monumental sorrow, that is a cause for monumental grieving, that is a cause for monumental bitterness. But you cannot blame anyone for it, you can only blame the people who plunged into this thoroughly reckless and muddled enterprise and caused this wasteful loss of lives. At the end of the day, all they’ve done is shoot themselves in the head. They’ve just doomed their cause forever. After this, no one will give the slightest thought to their claims to Sabah anymore: They’ve just killed it, as surely as they have 12 of their own.

At the end of the day too, after the weeping and gnashing of teeth over the dead, they will be forgotten. The way the Lapiang Malaya was forgotten, De los Santos himself was committed to a mental asylum where he was beaten to death. That is the way of tragic farces.

That is the way of farcical tragedies.

Sam Miguel
03-04-2013, 11:19 AM
^^^ For once I agree with Conrad over Doro.

These idiot followers of Kiram had no call to land on Malaysian territory all armed and gung-ho.

They were all essentially foreigners breaking the laws and the territorial integrity of a sovereign state.

What, if a Malaysian billionaire owns a mansion in Forbes Park, you think he is free to rape, murder and steal in his own house just because he owns it?

The friggin' cops would surely be all over him, might even call in the SWAT and shoot his ass dead.

So how is what the Kiram followers any different?

Sam Miguel
03-05-2013, 08:16 AM
Aquino tells plotters: You will not succeed

Kirams, accomplices will be held accountable

By TJ Burgonio

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:07 am | Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

As violence spread in Sabah, President Aquino on Monday warned the conspirators in the intrusion of the followers of the sultan of Sulu into the eastern Malaysian state: “You will not succeed.”

In a televised address with officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the President spoke of the alleged involvement of officials of the Arroyo administration in the conspiracy, but he indicated that evidence was still being gathered on the role of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Aquino said cases were “being built up” against the players.

But the family of Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III said the government should show proof that there was a sinister intent behind their followers’ crossing into Sabah to stake their claim to the territory.

“All these are just allegations. Prove it. We challenge them to prove it,” Princess Jacel Kiram, daughter of the sultan, said at a news conference.

“They should prove their claim that we have conspirators. If we have conspirators, they are the people,” she said.

She reported fresh fighting in Tanduao village in Lahad Datu town in Sabah where a group of sultanate followers led by her uncle Agbimuddin Kiram is cornered by Malaysian security forces.

Agbimuddin texted the sultan at about 4:20 p.m. Monday, reporting fighting between his group and Malaysian police, she said.

While warning the conspirators, President Aquino expressed concern about the safety of Agbimuddin and his armed followers, as well as the 800,000 Filipinos living and working in Sabah.

“We’re aware of the conspiracy that has led to this situation, a situation that has no immediate solution. We see some of them, while the others are lurking in the dark. The clan of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III can’t do this kind of move by themselves. It’s very noticeable that that there’s only one line coming from the critics, adding fire to a serious situation. They’ve worsened this issue, and they’re at it while hundreds of thousands of Filipinos face danger,” Aquino said.

They will pay

“To those people behind this, I’m telling you now: You will not succeed. Those who have committed a crime against the country will be called to account,” he said.

Former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, former Tarlac Rep. Jose Cojuangco and his wife, Margarita, and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari had been implicated as financiers of the Kirams’ “excursion” to Sabah, but they have strongly denied the allegations.

Responding to reporters’ questions later, the President indicated that the Kirams and the conspirators would face charges.

“Let’s start with this: Does the Constitution sanction any armed force beside the Armed Forces of the Philippines? Is there not a provision against armed groups? They are obviously by definition an armed group. They call themselves a particular name, and there is allegedly some connivance by certain members of the previous administration in the formation of this, which is in violation of the Constitution and various other laws of the land,” he said, spelling out the possible charges against the Kirams and the conspirators.

He said the Revised Penal Code also penalizes inciting to war. “When an armed group goes into an area administered by a different nation, can that not be considered an act of war by some of our citizens?” he said.

He added that the penal code also prescribes penalty for people who “incite others to war.”

“The (Department of Justice) is preparing the charges,” he said.

Is Arroyo involved?

Asked if the conspiracy led up to Arroyo, the President replied: “You’re asking for a conclusion that I wish I had right now. But again unless we have the evidence that can be brought before a court that will prove the case, I will not make an accusation.”

Aquino confirmed that there were intelligence reports as well as “persons of interest” pointing to the identity of the conspirators, but said the intelligence reports “do not provide evidence necessary for the courts.”

“Cases are being built up. Let’s emphasize this: Jamalul Kiram is sick, he needs dialysis and he is being assisted by the (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office). So even in terms of attending to his own health, he needs assistance. I’m told that renting a boat, a sufficiently large boat, to go to Sabah, costs about P100,000. There were two boats and one speedboat used by this group—so funds and food [were given to them],” he said.

When asked about Gonzales’ denial of reports naming him as instigator, Aquino said: “You know I won’t accuse anyone without any piece of evidence.”

Other Filipinos

As public concern grew over the fate of the armed Filipinos and their countrymen in Sabah following the spread of violence to other parts of the state over the weekend, Aquino said he was concerned about the safety of all Filipinos in Sabah.

“As President, the life not only of the group of Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram but also the welfare and safety of the estimated 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah rest on my shoulders. Every life is important, and we have no other objective but to ensure the safety of our countrymen, whichever part of the world they are,” he said.

“Let’s be frank with one another: If the situation is reversed, and our own community is raided by any armed group, can we just sit still and keep quiet? Aren’t we going to ask help from the government, too?” he added.

“What’s sad is that a few people chose to make this happen, and put many Filipinos in danger. Nonetheless, we won’t lose strength to end this conflict at the soonest possible time,” the President said.

“It’s simple: This would end if the personalities involved become reasonable, especially those who think of themselves as true leaders,” he said.

Aquino reiterated his call to the Kirams: “It’s not reasonable to ask for understanding if your gun is pointed to the head of the other party. We can only start reasonable talk once you’re ready to become sober and sit down at the table with an open mind.”

Talk with Najib

Aquino confirmed that he had a phone conversation with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at around 1 a.m. on Saturday.

“He told us that the situation has crossed the line. As to what happened [last Friday], negotiations were no longer possible because of the loss of life, especially on the part of the Malaysians. He said his countrymen were very angry,” he said.

Since the line had been crossed after weeks of appeal for the Kirams to stand down became futile, Najib authorized the security forces to end the standoff, Aquino said.

“On my part, I requested that our countrymen who are estimated to be 800,000 should not be affected, and we were given assurance that they will try to ensure this,” he said.

Aquino, however, said he did not give clearance to the Malaysians to go after Agbimuddin and his followers.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario flew to Kuala Lumpur Monday afternoon to discuss with Malaysian officials options to prevent further bloodshed in Sabah.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said Del Rosario would meet with Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman and “continue discussions on how to prevent further loss of lives and to appeal to the Malaysian authorities to exercise maximum tolerance in dealing with the remaining members of Agbimuddin’s group.

Aquino said that the trip of Foreign Secretary Del Rosario to Kuala Lumpur was aimed at “exploring possible other avenues.”

UN intervention

But the wife of the sultan, Princess Fatima Kiram, said only the intervention of the United Nations or another country could end the conflict in Sabah.

“This is honor above life. (Malacañang officials) are saying life is more important. But for us Tausug, honor is more important than life,” Fatima said.—With reports from Nikko Dizon and Tarra Quismundo

Sam Miguel
03-05-2013, 08:17 AM
^^^ If honor is so important to you then please do the honorable thing and kill yourselves now. You are an embarassment to your tribe and your entire country.

Oh wait a minute. You don't consider yourselves part of the country, isn't that right?

Sam Miguel
03-05-2013, 08:19 AM
KL sends ‘cavalry’ to Sabah; toll hits 27

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, The Star/Asia News Network

1:45 am | Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR—Malaysia on Monday sent hundreds of military troops to Sabah to help police neutralize armed followers of the sultan of Sulu who have killed eight police officers in the country’s bloodiest security crisis.

Twenty-seven people have reportedly been killed since fighting between the followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III began in Tanduao village in Lahad Datu town on March 1.

Of the dead, 19 were followers of the sultan who were killed in skirmishes with police that shocked Malaysians unaccustomed to such violence in their country.

The main group of the sultan’s followers comprising 200-odd men and women, including about 30 who are armed, is cornered by Malaysian security forces in a small area in Tanduao, where they landed on

Feb. 9 after crossing by sea from Tawi-Tawi in southern Philippines to stake the sultanate’s claim to Sabah.

It is Malaysia’s worst security breach in years and Prime Minister Najib Razak has authorized an investigation into reports that the political opposition is involved.

A similar investigation is going on in the Philippines, where the administration of President Aquino sees a conspiracy involving opponents of a peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that is in the final stages after the signing of a preliminary agreement last October.

Najib, who has vowed to root out the intruders, authorized a “doubling” of police and armed forces deployed in Sabah.

“An additional two Army battalions have been dispatched to Sabah,” Najib was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama.

Public attention focused on Monday on how to minimize casualties while apprehending the Sulu sultan’s followers surrounded by Malaysian security forces as well as an undetermined number of other armed Filipinos suspected to be in two other districts of Sabah within 300 kilometers of Lahad Datu.

Sabah Police Commissioner Hamza Taib said Army reinforcements from other states in Malaysia would help bolster public confidence by patrolling various parts of the state’s eastern seaboard.

“The situation is under control now,” Hamza said. “There will be cooperation” between the military and the police, he said.

Hamza declined to elaborate on specific strategies or on a call by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for lethal action.

“There is no way out other than launching a counterattack to eliminate” the intruders, Bernama quoted Mahathir as saying on Sunday. “Although many of them will be killed, this cannot be avoided because they had attacked Sabah, and not the other way around.”

Najib declared over the weekend that security forces were authorized to “take any action deemed necessary.”

The intruders, led by the Sulu sultan’s brother Agbimuddin, have rebuffed calls for them to leave, saying ownership documents from the late 1800s prove the territory is theirs.

Mysterious group

It remains unclear whether the armed Filipinos who ambushed a police team in Semporna town on Saturday night are part of the Lahad Datu group.

The clash in Semporna, where five Malaysian policemen and two intruders were killed, and a police claim that they were pursuing yet another group of armed men in a nearby town has sparked fears of further infiltration by Filipinos from Sulu.

The exact identities of the armed men remains a mystery, but Malaysia’s military chief, Zulkifeli Zin, told a press conference in Sabah on Sunday that the intruders appeared to have combat experience.

Their “insurgency guerrilla technique is quite good,” he was quoted as saying.

Zulkifeli said Malaysia’s military and the police were adopting a cautious approach in their plan to resolve the standoff with Agbimuddin’s group in Tanduao.

He noted that Agbimuddin’s group had planned their location around the village in such a way that they would inflict casualties if Malaysian security forces enter the area.

“They are at the center and have people spread out, including snipers,” Zulkifeli said.

“They know we will suffer casualties if we go in as the area is open,” he said.

“They are under close surveillance by our special forces,” Zulkifeli said.

But he added that while Malaysia was determined to “bring this episode to a close” as soon as possible, any action would take a little more time.

Sam Miguel
03-05-2013, 08:22 AM
Sabah ‘intrusion’ triggers political fight in Malaysia

By Allan Nawal

Inquirer Mindanao

2:56 am | Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

DIGOS CITY—When Tawi-Tawi Rep. Nur Jaafar was interviewed by the Sabah-based Daily Express on Sunday, he warned that the Sabah “intrusion” by armed followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III was developing into a major political issue in Malaysia, which is gearing for general elections not later than June 27.

Media reports from Kuala Lumpur indicate that this has become a reality, with the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) and the opposition accusing each other of orchestrating the Sabah situation for political gains after Philippine intelligence sources said a Malaysian opposition stalwart allied with Anwar Ibrahim had met with Kiram days before the Sabah entry.

Progovernment TV3 and Utusan Malaysia even ran a commentary by an unidentified author, which listed “10 indications that Anwar Ibrahim had architected [sic] the land grab by the sultan of Sulu.” The article accused Anwar of being a “manipulator par excellence and so skilled that he convinced several hundred fighters from Philippines to hide out in Lahad Datu and die for his cause.”

In the early years of his political career, Anwar, then an official of the the United Malays National Organization (Umno), was being groomed by then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad as his successor. Their relationship, however, eventually soured and Anwar was jailed on charges of sodomy.

Since then, Anwar has been on the forefront of the opposition, earning the ire of his former colleagues at Umno and their supporters.

Kiram meeting

The Bahasa daily Utusan Malaysia went even further when it printed a blog that claimed a “member of the Malaysian political opposition allied with Anwar Ibrahim” had met with Jamalul and promised the opposition’s support for his claim on Sabah.

TV3 used 30 minutes of its “Buletin Utama” program to discuss Anwar’s supposed links to the Lahad Datu “intrusion.” It also dedicated a similar period to demolish Tian Chua, vice president of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), for claiming the intrusion was a political play by leaders of Umno, the dominant party in the BN.

Anwar, PKR head and representative of Permatang Pauh to the Malaysian Parliament, was quoted by The New Straits Times (NST) as saying he had asked his lawyers to study the possibility of suing the two media outfits.

“These are highly irresponsible statements. They are purely cheap political gimmicks to create uncertainties and to apportion the blame [on us], to deflect from the utter weakness and failure of the leadership in this country,” he said in the NST interview.

Anwar, in the succeeding days of the standoff, had repeatedly denied the claims and said Utusan was allowing itself to be used by Umno for its political gains. He said he never met with any member of the Kiram family or their emissaries.

“[And] even if I have met [them], what is the issue? Who in the government has not met Moro Islamic Liberation Front leader Al Haj Murad Ebrahim or (Moro National Liberation Front leader) Nur Misuari?” he asked in another interview printed by the Malaysia Today.

“What is important is: Was there any discussion or encouragement or tacit approval [from me] for the insurgency or the encroachment into our borders?” Anwar said.

Umno

In retaliation for dragging Anwar into the Sabah bloodbath, Tian was reported by the Borneo Post as having said that on the contrary, Umno orchestrated the gun battle “with armed intruders” in Lahad Datu.

Tian said it was a “planned conspiracy of the UMNO government to divert attention and intimidate the people,” especially in Sabah, which is fast becoming opposition territory.

The PKR is being helped in Sabah by another opposition leader, Jeffrey Kitingan, a brother of Prime Minister Najib Razak-ally Joseph Pairin Kitingan.

Azmin Ali, another party stalwart, was also quoted by Borneo Insider as saying “the allegations were made in an attempt to weaken the growing support of Sabahans for the opposition.”

He challenged Anwar’s accusers to “produce proof.”

“All these are baseless accusations and attempts to divert attention from the real issue, which is the people’s safety,” he said. “Malaysians wanted to know the prime minister’s and home minister’s explanation on their handling of the standoff.”

“We ask: Don’t shift the people’s attention, how the safety of our seas and territory can be breached,” Azmin said.

Political game

Najib, in a report carried by state media Bernama, trashed the allegations about Umno’s role in the Sabah crisis as “a despicable political game by the opposition to garner the people’s support in view of the approaching general election.”

“They (the opposition) are accusing the government of staging a drama. We (the government) did not do any such thing. We never politicize our security because it involves human lives,” Najib also told a news conference during a ceremony honoring as heroes the two Malaysian commandos killed in Lahad Datu on Friday.

Najib accused PKR politicians of being “merciless and had no regard for humanitarian values” as they were “prepared to commit despicable acts and tell lies, and they could not be accepted as leaders.”

“We must say that all the security forces would be defended because they are risking their lives. The nation’s fighters should be acclaimed, not humiliated and debunked. So, do not play politics on the question of security,” the prime minister said.

He disclosed that a joint investigation by the Malaysian intelligence agency and its Philippine counterpart had started on claims that the Sabah incident was instigated by some politicians.

Najib said he, too, was puzzled at the timing of the “intrusion” because it took place as Malaysia’s political atmosphere was heating up due to the general elections.

“We want to know more on the claim. President Aquino is also interested to know,” he said.

Sam Miguel
03-05-2013, 08:24 AM
Santiago urges Sulu sultan: Bare true intentions

By Gil C. Cabacungan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

3:23 am | Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago says the sultanate of Sulu should first disclose its “true intentions” in its audacious attempt to retake Sabah—either to expand the territory of the Philippines or merely line the pockets of the royal family with money from higher compensation—before President Aquino can commit the country’s “meager” military resources to its territorial claim.

“I think the President’s priorities are correct in proceeding gingerly with the Sabah situation. This is a potentially explosive situation, we need it like we need a hole in the head,” Santiato said in a phone interview with the Inquirer on Sunday.

“The sultanate of Sulu must first answer the primordial question: For whom is it reclaiming Sabah? Is it for personal or family reasons or on behalf of all Filipinos?” she said.

“We must not take any military position in a boundary dispute between two states just because of one family which happens to be Filipino,” she said.

“I believe the [sultan] must stand down or he is on his own. He will have to answer for [the] consequences of his actions. We cannot harbor rogue individuals or this will be considered an act of provocation by Malaysia,” she said.

Santiago pointed out that the sultanate of Sulu took action “clearly” on its own without consulting or advising the President.

Sam Miguel
03-05-2013, 08:34 AM
Salonga explains Sabah claim

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:23 am | Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

(Editor’s Note: Following are excerpts from a speech that Sen. Jovito R. Salonga delivered on March 30, 1963, by way of rebuttal to the speech of Sen. Lorenzo Sumulong berating the Philippine claim to North Borneo (Sabah), which was filed by President Diosdado Macapagal on June 22, 1962, followed by the London negotiations of January 1963. Salonga was with the team of Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez who headed the London negotiations on behalf of our government. The Inquirer is reprinting excerpts from Salonga’s speech to shed light on the Sabah issue.)

A few days ago, Sen. Lorenzo Sumulong spoke on the floor of the Senate to air his views on the Philippine claim to North Borneo. My first reaction was to keep my peace and observe this shocking spectacle in silence, particularly in the light of the request of the British panel during the London Conference that the documents and the records of the proceedings be considered confidential, until they could be declassified in the normal course of diplomatic procedure. In part, my reaction was dictated by the belief, so aptly expressed elsewhere, that the best way to answer a bad argument is to let it go on and that silence is the “unbearable repartee.”

But silence could be tortured out of context and construed by others, not familiar with the facts, as an implied admission of the weakness of the Philippine stand. And so, I decided to make this reply, fully aware that in an exchange such as this, considering that our claim is still pending and each side is feeling out the other’s legal position, none but our British friends and their successors may well profit.

The good senator, whose patriotism I do not propose to impugn, has had access to the confidential records and documents of the Department of Foreign Affairs. By his own admission, he attended closed-door hearings of the Senate committees on foreign relations and national defense, where crucial matters of national survival and security were taken up. He knows the classified, confidential nature of the records and documents bearing on the Philippine claim.

Senator Sumulong has now found it proper and imperative, if we take him literally, to ventilate his views berating the merit and validity of the Republic’s claim, accusing his own government of gross ignorance and holding in unbelievable disdain the Philippine position on the British-sponsored Malaysia plan. He has chosen to assault the Philippine position at a time when his own government, by virtue of the British request, may be said to be somewhat helpless in making, right in our own country, an adequate, fully documented defense of the Philippine stand. I trust our British friends, here and across the seas, will understand if, in defense of our position, we come pretty close to the area of danger.

The good senator tells us that in view of the “importance and magnitude” of the subject, he decided to wait “until all the relevant facts and information” were in, that he had made his own “studies and researches,” which on the basis of the press releases issued by his office, must have been quite massive. The morning papers last Monday (March 25) quoted the senator as having bewailed, in advance of his privilege speech, that “only one side of the problem has been presented so far,” (meaning the Philippine side) seemingly unaware, despite the depth and range of his studies, that in the world press, only the British side has been given the benefit of full and favorable publicity and that the Philippine side has been summarily dismissed, just as the senator dismisses it now with apparent contempt, as “shadowy,” “dubious” and “flimsy.” It may interest the good senator to know that his statements, particularly on the eve of the talks in London, consistently derogatory of the Philippine claim, were seized upon by the English press with great delight, as if to show to the Philippine panel how well informed the senator was. It is, of course, not the fault of the senator that the British, in an admirable show of unity, enjoyed and were immensely fascinated by his press releases and statements.

Frame of reference

But before I take up the senator’s arguments in detail, it may be well to set our frame of reference by restating the position of the Philippine government on the North Borneo claim.

Thousands of years ago, what is now known as the Philippines and what is known today as Borneo used to constitute a single historical, cultural, economic unit. Authoritative Western scientists have traced the land bridges that connected these two places. The inhabitants of the Philippines and Borneo come from the same racial stock, they have the same color, they have or used to have similar customs and traditions. Borneo is only 18 miles away from us today.

North Borneo, formerly known as Sabah, was originally ruled by the sultan of Brunei. In 1704, in gratitude for help extended to him by the sultan of Sulu in suppressing a revolt, the sultan of Brunei ceded North Borneo to the Sulu sultan.

Here, our claim really begins. Over the years, the various European countries, including Britain, Spain and the Netherlands, acknowledged the sultan of Sulu as the sovereign ruler of North Borneo. They entered into various treaty arrangements with him.

In 1878, a keen Austrian adventurer, by the name of Baron de Overbeck, having known that the sultan of Sulu was facing a life-and-death struggle with the Spanish forces in the Sulu Archipelago, went to Sulu, took advantage of the situation and persuaded the sultan of Sulu to lease to him, in consideration of a yearly rental of Malayan $5,000 (roughly equivalent to a meager US$1,600), the territory now in question. The contract of lease—and I call it so on the basis of British documents and records that cannot be disputed here or abroad—contains a technical description of the territory in terms of natural boundaries, thus:

“… all the territories and lands being tributary to us on the mainland of the island of Borneo commencing from the Pandassan River on the NW coast and extending along the whole east coast as far as the Sibuco River in the south and comprising, among others, the states of Peitan, Sugut, Bangaya, Labuk, Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Muniang and all the other territories and states to the southward thereof bordering on Darvel Bay and as far as the Sibuco River with all the islands within three marine leagues of the coast.”

Contract to Dent

Overbeck later sold out all his rights under the contract to Alfred Dent, an English merchant, who established a provisional association and later a company, known as the British North Borneo Company, which assumed all the rights and obligations under the 1878 contract. This company was awarded a Royal Charter in 1881. A protest against the grant of the charter was lodged by the Spanish and the Dutch governments and in reply, the British government clarified its position and stated in unmistakable language that “sovereignty remains with the sultan of Sulu” and that the company was merely an administering authority.

In 1946, the British North Borneo Company transferred all its rights and obligations to the British Crown. The Crown, on July 10, 1946—just six days after Philippine independence—asserted full sovereign rights over North Borneo, as of that date. Shortly thereafter former American Governor General Francis Burton Harrison, then special adviser to the Philippine government on foreign affairs, denounced the cession order as a unilateral act in violation of legal rights. In 1950, Congressman Macapagal—along with Congressmen Arsenio Lacson and Arturo Tolentino—sponsored a resolution urging the formal institution of the claim to North Borneo. Prolonged studies were in the meanwhile undertaken and in 1962 the House of Representatives, in rare unanimity, passed a resolution urging the President of the Philippines to recover North Borneo consistent with international law and procedure. Acting on this unanimous resolution and having acquired all the rights and interests of the sultanate of Sulu, the Republic of the Philippines, through the President, filed the claim to North Borneo.

Basis of PH claim

Our claim is mainly based on the following propositions: that Overbeck and Dent, not being sovereign entities nor representing sovereign entities, could not and did not acquire dominion and sovereignty over North Borneo; that on the basis of authoritative British and Spanish documents, the British North Borneo Company, a private trading concern to whom Dent transferred his rights, did not and could not acquire dominion and sovereignty over North Borneo; that their rights were as those indicated in the basic contract, namely, that of a lessee and a mere delegate; that in accordance with established precedents in international law, the assertion of sovereign rights by the British Crown in 1946, in complete disregard of the contract of 1878 and their solemn commitments, did not and cannot produce legal results in the form of a new tide.

(Full text of Salonga’s and Sumulong’s speeches are available at Inquirer.net.)

Sam Miguel
03-05-2013, 08:55 AM
Understanding the Sabah dispute

By Artemio V. Panganiban

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:58 pm | Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

To understand (1) the claim of the Sultan of Sulu over Sabah, (2) the standoff in Lahad Datu town in Sabah, (3) the stand-down admonition of President Aquino directing the followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III led by his brother Datu Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram to withdraw and return peacefully to the Philippines, and (4) the enforcement actions of the Malaysian authorities that sadly resulted in death and injury, I think it is best to begin by discussing the concepts of sovereignty and ownership.

Sovereignty is the perpetual and absolute power of a state (not of an individual) to command obedience within its territory. This power is manifested through the state’s constitution and laws, and is enforced by governmental agencies and officials. When needed, the state’s military and police forces can be called to back this enforcement.

Sovereignty has external and internal aspects, external being the state’s ability to act without foreign intervention. It is often equated with independence. Internal sovereignty refers to the power of the state to rule within its borders and to govern both citizens (at home and abroad) and aliens staying in its territory. In the exercise of internal sovereignty, it maintains peace and order, fixes the relationships of people, and governs the rights to own properties situated within its borders.

Ownership, on the other hand, has a limited scope. It generally refers to the right to control a thing (including land), especially its possession, use, disposition and recovery. Ownership rights, especially over land and natural resources, are controlled and regulated by the state.

Sultan’s claim: In brief, the Sultan of Sulu claims ownership, not sovereignty, over a huge tract of land called Sabah. He alleges that his forebears leased the property to the British North Borneo Company, which in turn ceded its leasehold rights to Malaysia. Up to now, rentals for the property are paid the sultan.

In 1963, after an alleged referendum showing that the residents did not want to be part of the Philippines or of the Sultanate of Sulu, Malaysia incorporated Sabah as part of its national territory. Since that time, Malaysia has exercised sovereignty over the area, keeping peace and order, regulating the relations among the people, and governing the ownership, possession and enjoyment of property rights.

Obviously, then, the sultan’s claim is subject to the sovereign power of Malaysia and Malaysian laws. The stealthy entry of the sultan’s followers into Sabah violated Malaysian immigration and other laws; hence, they could be held accountable by Malaysian authorities. Even assuming that as proof of ownership, rentals are being paid in perpetuity, the sultan, as lessor, cannot deprive Malaysia, as lessee, of its possessory rights by force and illegal entry.

Since the sultan and his followers are Filipino citizens, the Philippines started diplomatic initiatives with Malaysia to secure their safety and wellbeing, and to enable them to leave Sabah voluntarily and peacefully.

However, as such citizens, they may be held answerable, after the observance of due process, for violations of Philippine laws. The Department of Justice is reportedly poised to investigate them for “inciting to war, or giving motives for reprisals; illegal possession of firearms; illegal assembly” and other crimes.

If, say, a Malaysian sultan is granted ownership rights by a past colonizer of the Philippines (like Spain) over a vast tract of land in Mindanao, the armed followers of that Malaysian sultan cannot just cross Philippine borders and occupy such property without the permission of the Philippines, regardless of whether Malaysia or the sultan has pending claims of sovereignty or ownership. By parity of reasoning, the Philippine government, in the exercise of its sovereignty, can take immigration, ejectment and other enforcement actions.

Philippine claim: During the term of President Diosdado Macapagal—in the 1960s, at about the same time that Malaysia took over Sabah—the Philippines asserted a sovereign claim over the property, then known as North Borneo. Since then, however, the claim has largely remained dormant.

The Philippine Constitution “renounces war as an instrument of national policy, adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation, and amity with all nations.”

Moreover, the United Nations Charter (Art. 51) obligates its members, including the Philippines, to settle international disputes only by peaceful means—that is, by negotiation, good offices, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement in the International Court of Justice, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, and other peaceful methods. The Philippines cannot employ war or other nonpeaceful ways to resolve the dispute.

To conclude, I believe the Philippines should continue pressing its sovereign claim via the peaceful methods I mentioned. Meanwhile, the Sultanate of Sulu should abandon nonlegal methods and respect the actual and existing sovereignty of Malaysia. If the sultan so desires, he may avail himself of the internal legal processes there to validate his ownership claims.

Should the Philippines succeed in its peaceful quest, then the sultan may continue his ownership claims in the Philippines pursuant to Philippine laws. This, I think, is the peaceful and legal way of settling the dispute.

* * *

Sam Miguel
03-05-2013, 09:08 AM
Filipino

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:09 pm | Monday, March 4th, 2013

Before the bloodbath happened last Friday, Jamalul Kiram was lambasting government for its indifference, if not hostility, to his cause. Indeed for perfidiously siding with Malaysia over them, fellow Filipinos.

“Is Mar Roxas now the spokesperson for Malaysia?” he demanded to know. “He claims that Malaysia will not talk to us. Is it hard for the Philippines and Malaysia to sit down and talk to us and settle this amicably?”

He felt insulted, he said, by Leila de Lima’s suggestion that he could be swayed. “I, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, pledge to our holy Quara’n that this aspiration to fight for what is rightfully ours, legally and historically, is a unilateral act of the Sultanate of Sulu…. Please do not insult the sacrifice of the Sultanate of Sulu by saying we can be swayed.”

As to P-Noy himself calling his group’s incursion into Sabah foolhardy, he fumed: “Why are you calling it foolhardy? Is it foolhardy to defend the patrimony of your nation? Is it foolhardy to fight for what is right? Is it foolhardy to sacrifice the lives of 235 people for the sake of the truth?”

Well, arguably Roxas is wrong to imagine he is God’s gift to this world rather than punishment to mankind, but the delusions in this case are more of Kiram’s than anybody else’s.

Is it the hardest thing in the world for the Philippines and Malaysia to sit down and talk to them and settle their claim to Sabah amicably? But of course it is. It is not just the hardest thing in the world, it is the most impossible thing in the world.

You land in Sabah with 235 armed men—enough to engage the Malaysian security forces in a firefight, sending two of them into the afterlife—and you hope with that belligerent act to be able to sit down with anyone and talk things over? You materialize from out of nowhere like pirates to (en)force a claim that has gotten you nowhere since the postwar postcolonial world through a succession of Philippine presidents, and you hope with that belligerent act to be able to settle things amicably?

Why on earth shouldn’t the Department of Justice want to look into those groups that have given the Kirams financial and moral support? People who are in dire need of financial and moral support—which the Kirams are—are vulnerable to being swayed whether they like it or not, whether they believe it or not. Of course they may never be swayed from their belief that Sabah is theirs, they may never be swayed from their dreams of reclaiming Sabah one day, but they can always be swayed in other things. They can be swayed into actually making a bid for it—people who have no money can only dream forever. They can be swayed into carrying it out now rather than later, right when government is in the middle of peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is being opposed by the Moro National Liberation Front.

And why on earth shouldn’t P-Noy call the Kiram group’s incursion into Sabah foolhardy and threaten to throw the book at those responsible for it? It is foolhardy. It is infinitely more foolhardy or futile or suicidal than the Oakwood mutiny.

Kiram’s justification for his act is that it was done in desperation, he had been sending his lamentations to Malacañang and it had been deaf to his entreaties. Well, if everyone is justified in embarking on violent acts like this—never mind provoking an international crisis, never mind stoking war with another country—because their pet projects do not get the attention they imagine they deserve, we might as well stop pretending to be a country. Hell, we might as well stop pretending to be sane.

Which brings us to what’s incredibly cheeky about these accusations. That is their premise that the incursion into Sabah advances this country’s interests, and therefore any attempt by government or the citizens to criticize it, or not support it, or bid it stop is anti-Filipino and/or pro-Malaysian. Can anything be battier?

At the very least, why should the Kiram group naturally represent the Philippines? They are not making their claim on Sabah on behalf of the Philippine government, they are making it on behalf of the Sultanate of Sulu. They are making it on the basis of colonial arrangements they made with Britain and the United States, which makes them a political entity in themselves. It compels not just the Malaysian government but the Philippine government to recognize them as so.

And if they ever get to get Sabah, what then? Will they have the right to tax its people, or more in keeping with the atavistic resonances of “sultanate,” levy tribute on their subjects? More to the point, if they ever get to get Sabah, will they have the right to negotiate with other countries, such as by allowing the United States to build bases in some part of it?

No, there is nothing there that naturally advances the Filipino interest.

At the very most, there is everything there that goes against the Filipino interest. What they have done has just imperiled the peace talks with the MILF, the single biggest boon to Filipino Christians and Muslims alike—in a long time, promising as it does to end a centuries-old fratricidal war. What they have done has just imperiled the chances of the Philippine government and the MILF to be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize for the history-making thing they have done. What they have done has just imperiled the 325,000 or so Filipinos in Sabah who now fear a backlash from the Malaysian government. What they have done has just imperiled the Philippine position on the Spratlys, giving the Chinese no small amount of ammunition to charge us with territorial delusions and ambitions. What they have done has just imperiled the country’s renewed standing in the world after the dark night of the first decade of the new millennium.

Being pissed off with that is anti-Filipino?

Joescoundrel
03-05-2013, 10:12 AM
Start indicting those responsible for Sabah bloodshed

AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR

By William M. Esposo

(The Philippine Star) | Updated March 5, 2013 - 12:00am

The March 2 early afternoon press conference at Malacanang Palace revealed hitherto unknown contacts between the President Benigno S. Aquino III (P-Noy) government and Sultan Jamalul Kiram and his family. Per Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, immediately after the Sabah crisis started, Secretaries Ronald Llamas (Political Adviser) and CP Garcia (National Security Adviser) touched base with the Kiram family. There were efforts at various levels to maintain contact with the Kirams.

We must wonder why messaging Secretary Ricky Carandang failed to report on these meetings. We must wonder why Abigail Valte kept denying that there have been on-going contacts between the government and the Sultanate of Sulu. P-Noy has unnecessarily been on the receiving end of brickbats accusing him of snubbing the Sultanate.

In the wake of the bloodshed in Sabah, those responsible for it should be held accountable. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima previously mentioned the applicable charge per Philippine laws — that of inciting to war. The pronouncements of Sultan Kiram and his relatives and their call for support from other fellow Filipinos to press their claim against Malaysia could be cited as basis for such an indictment. If the call ended in armed conflict with casualties, then inciting to war is justified.

Media persons who promoted these lines of the Sultanate could also be considered as responsible and indicted if basis is established. Were they reporting only what they heard or were they actively promoting the cause of the Sultanate, which is beyond their call of duty as journalists? Add Robin Padilla to the list for calling on Filipinos to support the adventurers in Sabah. Padilla should first go to Sabah and make his call from there while supporting the royal claim. Over there he’ll know the difference between screenplay and a real firefight.

They have all willfully jeopardized Philippine national interest and our good relations with Malaysia. Not only that, they’ve put at risk the over 800,000 Filipinos living and working in Sabah. This issue isn’t whether P-Noy has the guts to stand up to Malaysia and press the Sabah claim. P-Noy has stood up to China’s bullying and was globally hailed for doing so. You cannot accuse this president of lacking in guts.

The issue is whether it’s in our best national interest to bring the Sabah issue to the table while our MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) peace accord is being facilitated by Malaysia. The issue is whether we are willing to lose Malaysian support in ASEAN, as it is key to our conflict with China. The issue is whether it’s a responsible act of statesmanship to engage Malaysia in what could become a belligerent situation when we don’t have the military, naval and air force to match that of Malaysia. The issue is whether there’s wisdom in pursuing the Sabah claim at this time when both the US and UK have doused water on it.

The issue is whether it’s a good decision to pursue a Sabah claim that’s now riddled full of holes by historical events. In 1977, likely with US prodding, Dictator Ferdinand Marcos renounced all Philippine claims to Sabah. Whether we like the dictatorship or not, it’s still considered the valid Philippine government at that time and that act binds us to renounce our claims to Sabah. That’s also why we could not avoid paying for all the loans of the Marcos dictatorship as some quarters suggested we do in 1986. Then by the Kiram family’s own admission, they recalled in 1989 from the Philippine government the 1962 ceding of the Sabah claim. So, what’s there to fight for?

This Kiram occupation of Sabah has a perfect historical parallel — the 1745 Scottish Jacobite Rebellion following the return to Scotland of Scottish throne claimant Bonnie Prince Charles Edward Stuart. With just a shipload of arms and no French troops to support the rebellion, the more sober headed clan chiefs told Prince Charlie to go home in France. Bonnie Prince Charlie replied: “I am home.” His homecoming was paid for with Scottish blood. The 1745 Jacobite Rebellion ended with a Scottish defeat at the Battle of Culloden. Ruthless persecution was the aftermath of Culloden. The Scottish clan system was never the same again.

Prince Charlie’s claim had been overtaken by historical events — most notably the 1603 Union of the Crowns of Scotland and England, the very basis for calling the country the United Kingdom. The tragedy of Culloden and its bitter aftermath of persecution could have all been avoided if Prince Charlie had a better appreciation of history — what events could and couldn’t be reversed. His misadventure not only failed to reverse the tide of Scottish history but also nearly obliterated Scottish culture.

Sabah is FOOL’S GOLD and we should think very carefully before investing national goodwill and foreign relations for the pursuit of it. It’s bad enough to waste time and energy in the pursuit of fool’s gold. It’s unconscionable to shed precious Filipino blood while pursuing it. Let’s not allow ourselves to be driven by emotion to emulate the misadventure of Scotland’s Bonnie Prince Charlie who only had a dream with him and hardly anything else with which to attain it.

Let’s focus on the other beautiful horizons unfolding here.

* * *

xxiocebu
03-05-2013, 10:35 AM
The Sabah Claim was out the door a loooong time ago when the Government did not do anything active. It was mentioned that my grandfather made a privilege speech in Congress that was a great explanation on the validity of the claim. That speech was made in 1967.

45 years later...we should have gone either way by now. Given it up or negotiated for some economic settlement in behalf of the Sultan of Sulu. Instead we are now in between a rock and an island.

Joescoundrel
03-05-2013, 01:54 PM
Philippine sultan infuriates two countries

By Mynardo Macaraig

| AFP News – Thu, Feb 28, 2013.

From a dirty plastic chair in a rundown district of the Philippine capital, an ailing man claiming to be the head of an ancient Muslim dynasty whispers defiant decrees that infuriate a president.

Jamalul Kiram III, who insists he is the genuine "Sultan of Sulu", emerged from political obscurity this month after a few dozen of his armed followers sailed to neighbouring Malaysia to stake an ancestral territorial claim.

The gunmen took control of a small coastal village in Sabah state on Borneo island, triggering a standoff with Malaysian security forces that has yet to be resolved and deeply embarrassing Philippine President Benigno Aquino.

Although he is weak from kidney disease that needs twice-weekly dialysis, Kiram, 74, insists he is willing to take on the Philippine and Malaysian governments to assert his family's claim to resource-rich Sabah.

Speaking in a voice barely above a whisper, he tells reporters who gather daily at his modest two-storey home that his "royal army" will never abandon Sabah.

"If they have to die, then they will die. They are sacrificing (themselves) for whatever may happen," he said this week after Aquino ordered Kiram to withdraw his men back to their southern Philippine island homes.

Kiram's house in Manila is festooned with banners proclaiming the "Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo," with a coat of arms showing two crossed swords, informing visitors on the pot-holed street that they are in royal territory.

Kiram speaks nostalgically of the Sulu sultanate's glory days before European colonisation, when it ruled over Sabah and large parts of the southern Philippines.

The Kirams say they are descended from the prophet Mohammad, through a Mecca-born Arab who travelled to Southeast Asia.

The sultanate boasts that, in centuries past, it had active relations with other Asian kingdoms and even with China's Ming dynasty, while dominating the Sulu Sea with a powerful navy.

But the sultanate lost much of its influence to European colonial powers, officially losing Sabah in 1878 via a loosely worded contract to a British trading company that paved the way for it to be part of Malaysian territory.

Sabah has prospered under Malaysia.

But the remote islands of Sulu are now among the poorest parts of the Philippines, home to insurgents that continue to wage rebellion against the government while dreaming of an independent Muslim homeland.

While Kiram is comfortable with the sultanate remaining part of the Philippines, he says he sent his men into Malaysia so that his family and the national government's claims to Sabah will be recognised.

The Philippine government has never renounced its claim to Sabah, however Aquino and previous governments have not challenged Malaysia over the issue, preferring instead to pursue warm bilateral relations.

Although Kiram and his advisers insist money is not the motivation for their incursion into Malaysia, they have also signalled the "royal army" would stand down if the sultanate was given a greater share of the riches of Sabah.

Under the agreement in 1878 that saw the sultanate lose Sabah, Malaysia continues to give the Kiram family a nominal compensation payment of about 70,000 pesos ($1700) a year.

"The fare for a hired (pedicab) is even higher than their payment," Kiram said.

Since the 1960s, Kiram has largely lived in Manila -- about 900 kilometres (560 miles) from the strife-torn Sulu islands -- from where he has been able to look after his business interests.

Kiram said he owned large tracts of rice and coconut plantations, and he has a wide following among the local residents in Sulu.

He lost in his sole foray into national politics when he ran for the Senate in 2007 under the party of then-president Gloria Arroyo, who now stands accused of massive corruption during her time in power.

Kiram said he ran on her ticket to better establish his credentials to the title of Sultan of Sulu, amid a bewildering array of competing claims.

Aquino, seeking to pressure Kiram into submission, told reporters this week that the Sabah issue was clouded by questions as to who was the real sultan.

"They have at least five people who are claiming to be the Sultan of Sulu. So that is one of my first problems: who actually represents the Sultanate of Sulu?" Aquino said.

The Sulu provincial government lists on its website that one of Kiram's brothers is the sultan.

Ibrahim Bahjin, a doctor based in the southern Philippines, also insists he is the real sultan.

"All the brothers and nephews have been fighting for the sultanate. We belong to different royal houses. But I was proclaimed paramount sultan in 2004," he told AFP by phone.

Joescoundrel
03-05-2013, 02:00 PM
Sultan Jamalul Kiram III: A king without a kingdom?

GMA News Online – 16 hours ago

In 2007, Forbes declared Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei, the world’s richest monarch, with a net worth of $22 billion and a life of pomp and splendor in the largest palace in the world. In stark contrast is Jamalul Kiram III, Sultan of Sulu, who lives in a small home in Taguig, Metro Manila—a home in danger of being foreclosed.

“Hindi ko kayang mag-shopping sa mall,” Kiram told I-Witness host Sandra Aguinaldo in the documentary Haring Walang Kaharian. “I don’t have the money to spend.”

Staking their claim

Politics plays a part in why Jamalul Kiram III’s family has fallen on hard times. He is only one of many descendants claiming the sultanate of Sulu—and, with it, the ownership of Sabah. Since siblings may inherit the sultanate, there are several Kiram family members insisting that they are the rightful descendants of the original sultan.

According to Kiram, he is descended from Sultan Sharif ul-Hashim, the first sultan and founder of the Sulu Sultanate and a descendant of the Prophet Mohammad, a report on Balitanghali said.

According to the report, Kiram was born in Maimbung, Sulu in 1938. He studied at Notre Dame of Jolo College and took up law at Manuel L. Quezon University.

His name first became familiar to the public in 2007, when he ran for senator under the ticket of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

He was part of Team Unity, along with Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Ralph Recto, and Tito Sotto. Although he did not win in the election, he was the leading candidate in Lanao del Norte, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Before this, he served as Arroyo's Presidential Adviser on Muslim Royalty Concerns in 2005, was on the Joint Legislative and Executive Advisory Council on the Sabah Claim from 2000 to 2004, and was a member of the Philippine Olympic Committee from 1996 to 2000.

Based on information released by Malacañang, Kiram's father, Datu Punjungan Kiram, was a former Crown Prince but was stripped of his title. Punjungan was a brother of the former Sultan Esmail Kiram I.

When Esmail died, his son Mahakuttah Kiram was crowned sultan. But even then, Jamalul's father insisted his was the rightful claim to the throne.

Mahakuttah Kiram as the last sultan of Sulu to be recognized by the Philippine government, and was installed with a public coronation by President Ferdinand Marcos in 1974, according to the Royal Sultanate of Sulu website.

But in his résumé, obtained by GMA News Research when he ran for senator in 2007, Jamalul III claimed he was proclaimed the 33rd sultan of Sulu in 1984, and crowned in 1986, the Balitanghali report said.

According to Malacañang, the information they released was not an official genealogical chart or family tree, nor did it represent the official position of the Philippines, the report said.

‘Sabah is never for sale’

Jamalul Kiram III shot back into the spotlight on February 9, 2013, when his brother, Raja Muda Azzimudie Kiram, and over a hundred supporters illegally entered Lahad Datu, Sabah to stake their claim on the land. By February 24, Malaysian troops had surrounded Kiram’s supporters and the Philippine government had sent a ship to Sabah, asking them to come home.

It has been decades since the Philippines actively pursued its claim on Sabah; however, the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu receive a nominal yearly rent from the Malaysian government. Once divided amongst themselves, a Kiram family member told ‘I-Witness,’ each heir receives less than P700.

A report by GMA News said that Kiram and his followers “were demanding recognition from Malaysia and a renegotiation of the original terms of lease…including a rent higher than the current paltry sum paid by the Malaysian government.”

These demands have been rejected by the Malaysian officials, and tension escalated until March 1—when the standoff turned violent and resulted in two dead Malaysian police officers and a reported 12 dead among Kiram’s supporters.

Despite this, Raja Muda’s group has no plans to return to the Philippines. In an earlier report by Malaysia’s The Star Online, he said their group was willing to fight to the death.

This echoes the statement Dayang Dayang Jacel Kiram, the sultan’s daughter, made to Sandra Aguinaldo in February: “This is not about money. This is about principle.”

Her words offer a look into the personal nature of the sultan’s claim: “Grabe ang pagkahanga ko sa daddy ko. Nakita ko yung pinagtiisan niya with all the offers that have been made to him. He did not take them because my lolo said that Sabah is never for sale.”

‘Normal lang kami’

Back in the Philippines, the life of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III is suprisingly ordinary. He has nine children—and like ordinary parents, the sultan and his wife must find ways to make ends meet. Helping them are his two daughters, Dayang Dayang Jacel and Dayang Dayang Jahara.

Jahara, a call center agent, says there is “nothing special” about being a princess apart from having the dignity that comes with their family name.

“Normal lang kami,” she says. “Akala ng mga tao mayaman kami, pero nagko-commute ako sa office. ‘Yung salary, nagagamit para sa amang sumasailalim sa dialysis.”

Kiram is now suffering from kidney disease, and undergoes dialysis weekly.

Jahara remembers hearing tales of their family’s past—of a vast collection of gold, of how the crown prince was not allowed to set foot on the ground. “I was amazed,” she admits. “Napaisip ako, ‘bakit kaya ngayon, hindi na ganun?’”

Still, Jacel and Jahara both speak highly of their father, now 74 years old. Their father has received offers to sell Sabah for a lump sum, Jacel told ‘I-Witness,’ but he refused despite being in need of money.

Jacel added: “Ang assessment ko nga, yung pagiging sultan, ibinibigay yan sa pusong sultan—sa may mabuting puso.”

A question of finances

As of March 4, the Raja Muda group still refuses to return to the Philippines. President Benigno Aquino III has stated that the Kiram family did not have the resources to stage the standoff, and called upon their alleged “backers” to stop aggravating the situation: “Hindi po kakayanin ng angkan ni Sultan Jamalul Kiram III na gawing mag-isa ang ganitong uri ng pagkilos.”

Aquino added that while the Philippines’ claim to Sabah stands, the supporters of Kiram should not have acted without the Filipino government.

“Pinalubha nila ang isyung ito, at ginagawa nila ito habang inilalagay sa peligro ang daan-daang libong Pilipino,” said Aquino, saying that the current situation is one without a solution in view.

What the Kiram family plans to do in the event that Sabah is ceded to them isn’t clear, either. After all, how would you develop a province and take care of its people if the sultanate itself is penniless?

A line from Aguinaldo’s documentary reflects on this problem: “Wala na ang karangyaan at kapangyarihan. Ano pa nga ba ang silbi ng hari kung wala na ang kaharian?”

‘I am the sultan of Sulu’

There are many things complicating Jamalul Kiram III’s claim to Sabah—the contested line of succession, their family’s difficult financial status, the violent standoff in Lahad Datu.

But if you ask the family, they say they will never give up on their claim, nor will they tire of spreading the word to whoever will listen.

Princess Fatima Kiram, the sultan’s wife and spokesperson, told ‘I-Witness’ that her husband’s resolve is firm: “Siya ‘yung taong...’if this is God’s will,’ lagi niyang sinasabi ‘yun. If you believe in God, you don’t regret.”

When asked how he would like to be remembered, Jamalul Kiram III’s answer was simple: “As a generous leader... the sultan of Sulu.” — [I]Cristina Tantengco and Carmela G. Lapeña/BM, GMA News

Joescoundrel
03-06-2013, 08:58 AM
Impending defeat can end Jamalul ‘royalty’ control

GOTCHA

By Jarius Bondoc

(The Philippine Star) | Updated March 6, 2013 - 12:00am

Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III has started a fight he can never hope to win. For detailing too long in Tanduao village, Lahad Datu, Sabah, his ragtag band of Tausug loyalists, Malaysia had to eject them by force. Resisting with a few long arms, they slew two Malaysian policemen, but themselves suffered ten dead and ten captured. Elsewhere in Sabah in the next days they in turn killed five Malaysian soldiers and took hostage four. It only worsened their situation. Provoked, Malaysia naturally is using everything in its arsenal, including fighter-bombers and mortars, to contain them. They will be wiped out, by bullet if not by deprivation.

Violence, hatred, suspicion are now feeding themselves. A retired but armed Moro rebel reportedly rounded up Sabahan neighbors, but was mobbed. Malaysian forces mowed down Jamalul sympathizers, including two imams (Muslim prayer leaders) and sons. Hundreds of their fellow-Tausugs were deported from Sabah Sunday, with more to follow for illegal stays. Dozens of others, legally employed, have been fired by Malaysian employers. Many of the 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah, mostly Tausugs, reportedly are in fear of reprisals.

Jamalul had miscalculated. Taking for Malaysian weakness four deferments of any assault, he had his brother Raja Muda (Crown Prince) Agbi-muddin and the loyalists dig in at Tanduao. The ensuing massacre is akin to what happened to Tausugs in Jolo, Sulu, this week 107 years ago, in the (First) Battle of Bud Daho.

The Sulu Sultan was on the side of the American massacrers in 1906, though. The most diehard Tausug resisters of American rule had holed up in the forested crater of the dormant volcano. The colonial army balked at attacking. For, sustaining heavy casualties would point up the near impregnability of the mountain stronghold. The rebels, 800 to 1,000 including women and children, misjudged as softness the American hesitance. They raided lowland villages for food, angering the datus. Rejected was a last-ditch try by the Sultan to make them disband. American ground and naval artillery were called in, followed by mounted and foot soldiers. The rebels resisted with mere swords, spears, and improvised grenades. Only six of them came out alive.

Jamalul seems to not have learned from that lesson. This puts in question not only his generalship but also his royalty claim. Followers naturally desert a defeated leader. There are ten other claimants to the Sultan’s throne, largely symbolic as it may be.

* * *

It takes two hands to clap. Jamalul rebukes Malacañang for vagueness about its stand on his Sabah claims. Yet he and Agbimuddin appear to not be upfront as well about their intents. That is Malacañang’s explanation for the crafting of its statements on the standoff and ensuing armed clashes.

Malacañang cites three instances of doubletalk by Jamalul and Agbimuddin: (1) in their bearing of arms in Sabah, (2) in their appeals for support, (3) in their denial of Palace efforts to help resolve their dilemma.

Of 180 to 235 loyalists who went to Sabah, 30 allegedly were armed with rifles and pistols only to secure Agbimuddin. They intended no aggression; thus the presence of 30 women. Reports are sketchy if they indeed had fired first in Tanduao, at a patrol car that was enforcing a distant perimeter. But the instant retaliations in Semporna, two-and-a-half hours’ drive away, shows that the arming was more than for just bodyguard, Malacañang says.

Jamalul and Agbimuddin also would not say if the help they seek is in pressing their proprietary claim, that is, higher annual rent. They lament that the Sultanate receives a mere 5,300 ringgit a year, which when divvied up redounds to at most P2.50 per adult heir. The President refuses to talk about the claim unless Jamalul and Agbimuddin stand down first. Yet three Cabinet men have assured that the government has not abandoned the sovereignty right. The Sultanate is saying that what it is doing in Sabah will benefit the Filipino nation.

From the start, Malacañang had sent Presidential Political Adviser Ronald Llamas and National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia to help save the lives of Jamalul’s men. They apparently disagreed, so Malacañang dispatched two Muslims by birth: Muslim Autonomous Region Gov. Mujiv Hataman, who is half-Tausug and speaks the language, and police general Cipriano Querol Jr. They acceded to Jamalul’s request for non-publicizing of their talks. That’s why, Malacañang says, it was surprised when the latter accused them of refusing to talk.

Even the hour-long sea crossing from Simunol, Tawi-Tawi, to Tanduao is suspect, Malacañang adds a fourth item. If Jamalul and Agbimuddin are bent on dramatizing their claim, why in March? Summer, in May-June, would have seen calmer seas, not treacherous habagat (southwest trade winds). Was it timed for the simultaneous election campaigns in the Philippines and Malaysia?

Indeed election contenders in both countries are now politicizing the issue. In the Philippines, the opposition is bashing the party in power for mishandling the standoff-turned-massacre. Former bitter foes are coming together in what Malacañang in turn calls provocateur-financiers of the Sulu Sultanate’s “royal guards.”

In Malaysia, the ruling party is accusing the opposition of collusion with the Tausug intruders. A plot is in the offing to blackmail Agbimuddin’s remnants to implicate certain political figures.

The screeching from both sides — to invade Sabah or deport all 800,000 Filipinos, jail all political foes or muzzle the press — do not help to dissipate the conflict.

* * *

admiral thrawn
03-06-2013, 09:05 AM
Malaysia just inherited the insurgency that the Philippine government has been fighting for more than 3 decades! trust me heads will roll..guts will be splattered.....literally!tsk tsk tsk...sad!

Sam Miguel
03-07-2013, 09:06 AM
Filipino sultan’s quest sparks crisis in Malaysia

Associated Press

6:53 pm | Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines— Unlike many other Muslim royalties basking in grand palaces and opulent lifestyles, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III’s kingdom sits in a rundown two-story house in a poor Islamic community in Manila, the only hint of power and glory the title attached to his name.

“I’m the poorest sultan in the world,” the ailing Kiram, 74, told The Associated Press in an interview in his residence in Maharlika village in the Philippine capital.

Although largely forgotten and dismissed as a vestige from a bygone era, Kiram’s sultanate sparked the biggest security crisis in Malaysia and the Philippines in decades when his younger brother early last month led about 200 followers, dozens of them armed, by boat from the southern Philippines a short distance away to a village in Sabah in the vast, oil-rich Borneo region to claim the land the sultanate insists belongs to them.

A stunned Malaysia, which runs the frontier region of timberlands and palm oil plantations as its second-largest federal state, poured in elite police and army troops and called in airstrikes to quell what it called an armed intrusion. Sporadic clashes have so far killed 19 intruders and eight policemen. Troops launched a full-scale assault Tuesday, codenamed “Operation Sovereign,” but failed to account for most of the Filipinos, who according to the Kiram family were unhurt.

Malaysian forces shot and possibly killed one of the men, who appear to be trying to escape the area, police said. Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said later Wednesday that security forces combing the area found 12 bodies. However, it was not clear if they died in Tuesday’s strike or in another clash last week that left a dozen of the Filipinos dead.

The crisis has tested the neighbors’ friendly ties and hit the leaders of both nations at a delicate time politically.

The Kirams claim Sabah has belonged to their sultanate for centuries and was only leased to Malaysia, which they say pays them a paltry annual rent of 5,300 Malaysian ringgit ($1,708). Malaysian officials contend the payments are part of an arrangement under which the sultanate has ceded the 74,000 square kilometers (28,000 square miles) of Sabah territory to their country.

Philippine presidents have relegated the volatile feud to the backburner despite efforts by the Kirams to put it back to the national agenda. The Feb. 9 Sabah expedition by the sultan’s younger brother, Agbimuddin Kiram, and the ensuing violence have resurrected the long-dormant issue with the murky history beyond anybody’s expectations.

Overran by history, the Kirams carry royal titles and nothing much else.

“When I was a child, I thought ‘princess’ was just my name because when you’re a child, your idea of being a princess is one with a crown, a palace, a carriage. But not me,” said Jacel Kiram, a 35-year-old daughter of the sultan, who is regarded a princess.

At his Maharlika village home, the sultan, who has failed kidneys and a heart ailment, struggled with slurred speech to proudly recount the saga of his clan’s empire based in the Sulu archipelago in the southern Philippines. Chinese and European leaders, he said, once sent vassals to pay homage to his powerful forebears. The Sulu sultanate, which emerged in the 1400s, preceded both the Philippine republic and Malaysia by centuries.

The exploits of the sultanate’s native Tausug warriors were so legendary, the Brunei sultan at the time sought their help in putting down a rebellion in the 1600-1700s. When the uprising was crushed, the Brunei sultan handed over Sabah to his Sulu counterpart as a gift of gratitude.

A Filipino sultan later leased Sabah to a British colonial-era company. The territory was later annexed by Britain. In 1963, six years after colonial Malaya gained independence, Sabah voted to join the new Malaysia.

The Sulu sultanate had steadily declined through the centuries, its power passed on to a succession of leaders and heirs. Jamalul Kiram III is the 33rd sultan and a symbolic leader with followers in Sulu and nearby southern provinces, which are among the country’s poorest and are troubled by Muslim rebels, al-Qaida-linked extremists and outlaws.

Born in Sulu’s far-flung Maimbung town in 1938, Kiram is a beloved leader who in his youth turned to dance and singing and played sports, including his favorite, tennis. He once worked as a disk jockey in a Jolo radio station. He took up law but failed to take the bar exams when he joined a prominent cultural dance group in the 1960s, according to his wife, Fatima Celia.

He also ran for senator in 2007, backed by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo — a tacit recognition of his sultanate leadership — but lost, leaving his family in debt due to the high campaign expenses, she said.

Last year, the sultan was diagnosed with failed kidneys and began to receive dialysis treatment, causing family members to miss out on monthly payments for their house, which they nearly lost had friends not helped out, Celia said.

Since then, Kiram has mostly been sidelined to his bedroom, which resembles a hospital unit with two oxygen tanks and serves as an office where he met visitors and followers seeking all sorts of help.

In his younger years, Kiram said he traveled often to Sabah, a short ride by boat from Sulu and nearby Tawi Tawi provinces. Large numbers of hardup Filipinos have relocated there in search of jobs and opportunities. “It’s really very rich,” he said of Sabah. “When I’m in Sabah, I feel at home.”

It was his decrepit sultanate’s inability to help out Filipino followers, who are seeking work and greener pastures, that he said prompted him to allow his brother to lead a first batch of settlers to relocate in a village in Sabah’s coastal district of Lahad Datu, the event that triggered the three-week deadly standoff.

Worried about straining relations with affluent Malaysia, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has walked a delicate tightrope, careful to avoid a collision course with Malaysia and at the same time reach out to the Kirams, who accused him of mishandling the crisis and siding with Malaysia. The Sabah standoff erupted as Aquino was grappling with a separate rift with China over contested South China Sea territories.

Malaysia has also brokered peace talks between Manila and the largest Muslim rebel group in the southern Philippines. Both countries are founding members of an influential regional bloc, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

In Malaysia, activists have called for tougher border security and immigration policies in Sabah, presenting a major political challenge to Prime Minister Najib Razak’s ruling coalition, which faces general elections that must be held by the end of June.

James Chin, political science lecturer with Monash University in Malaysia, said that the crisis could spell trouble for Najib if the Filipino community in Sabah and Sarawak states, many who have assimilated into Malaysian society and hold identity cards, vote against his ruling coalition.

Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo jointly account for a quarter of parliamentary seats and are key to a victory for Najib’s coalition.

The Kirams said the sultanate wanted the Philippine government to pursue their claim to Sabah, but successive presidents have ignored their plea.

Many stories of poor Filipinos maltreated by Malaysian authorities in Sabah provided the final straw, Kiram’s wife said.

“It’s good if they were placed in jail,” she said. “The problem is they are caned, they are punished and then deported … we couldn’t do anything.”

The sultan said his followers being hunted in Sabah were fighting for their rights and honor, something profoundly important among his followers. The Malaysians could wipe them out but the problem won’t go away, his wife said.

“They would be replaced by others and generations more to come,” she said.

Sam Miguel
03-07-2013, 09:09 AM
Aquino: I won’t allow Sulu sultan to drag PH into war with Malaysia

By Michael Lim Ubac

Philippine Daily Inquirer

5:08 am | Thursday, March 7th, 2013

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines—President Aquino on Wednesday declared that he would not allow the sultanate of Sulu to drag the country into a conflict with Malaysia.

A day after Malaysian forces launched a major operation to flush out the sultan’s armed followers at Lahad Datu town in Sabah, Aquino noted that the family of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III was engaged in a “propaganda war” ostensibly to elicit sympathy from Filipinos.

Addressing a campaign rally of Team PNoy, the President turned emotional as he explained his decision not to discuss the Sabah claim with Kiram unless the sultan first recalled his followers from Sabah.

“I appeal to you—we should be really clear on this—this incident is wrong. If this is wrong, why should we lend support to this? We should support what is right … which will lead us to brighter prospects; the wrong option will only bring us ruin. That’s it, that’s my simple message,” he said to applause from the audience.

“Let’s not forget: What they are pushing for is their right as so-called heirs of the sultan of Sulu. It’s not yet clear if their rights have been transferred to the Philippines. But we will all be affected by their conflict (with Malaysia),” the President lamented.

Women spokespersons

A Palace official told the Inquirer that the President had been advised against further commenting on the Sabah standoff but still made these impromptu remarks during the rally to explain the government’s position in clear and unequivocal terms.

The official, who was not authorized to talk to reporters, admitted that the Palace’s position was becoming unpopular with the public, referring to Kiram using women as spokespersons.

In his speech, the President reiterated his call for the Kirams to stand down, order their followers to leave Lahad Datu, “and talk about your problem through a peaceful and orderly process.”

“Was that suggestion wrong?” he asked. “Is it right for others to seek support for those (at Lahad Datu) who are carrying arms that have led to killings?”

He admitted that the relations between Malaysia and the Philippines had been colored by the Sabah issue.

“Is it the interest of the Kirams, or the interest of the nation? Naturally, (we would prefer to achieve) both. This made me think, and we have truthfully studied this: They are claiming Sabah. Where did the problem that they no longer own it come from? Wasn’t this caused by their forebears who gave the lease or authority to the British to administer Sabah?” Aquino said.

“If they have a problem with the (lease) agreement, and if we are interested (to pursue this), we should talk about it through a peaceful dialogue,” he said. “If the agreement is flawed, let’s correct it.”

Conflict with China

Without mentioning China, the President noted that the country had a territorial dispute with a “big nation” but he said he never advocated the use of force to settle the issue.

“We brought the issue to the (international) court to press for our right as a state. Whichever community, wherever you are in the whole wide world, an armed group entering the (territory) is not the key to a peaceful and orderly dialogue?” he said.

In the last three weeks, Aquino admitted that he learned a lot from studying the Sabah conflict.

Jabidah massacre

He recalled that his father, the late Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., had delivered a privilege speech on the Jabidah massacre in 1968 that later sparked the Moro revolt.

He cited the power of attorney mentioned by then Sen. Ambrosio Padilla dated Feb. 1, 1968, “allegedly executed by the heirs of the sultan of Sulu, in favor of President Ferdinand E. Marcos, recognizing the authority and power of the President to represent them in their settlement of their propriety rights over Sabah.”

“Therefore, I, as father of the nation, it is my obligation to safeguard the welfare of all Filipinos,” Aquino said, highlighting the decision of Malaysia to broker peace talks between his administration and the Moro rebels.

“Our relationship was becoming stronger when this (conflict) suddenly broke out … Someone in Malaysia will say: Is this how our relations with the Philippines will progress? We will always quarrel over Sabah? Are we fighting over this?”

Sam Miguel
03-07-2013, 09:11 AM
FVR to Aquino: Convene security council

By Jerome Aning

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:14 am | Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Former President Fidel V. Ramos on Wednesday stressed he never abandoned the Philippine claim to Sabah and urged President Aquino and Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to meet face to face to discuss how to end the standoff in the Malaysian state.

“The two principals should meet one on one, just the two of them, face to face,” Ramos said in a press conference at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, shortly before he left for a business trip to Taiwan.

Ramos said the National Security Council and a full Cabinet meeting should have been convened as soon as the crisis ensued, although he said he respected Aquino’s actions.

In the meeting, Ramos said, Aquino should secure a pledge from Kiram to be allowed to represent the sultanate in talks with Malaysia regarding the Sabah claim and in turn, Aquino should vow to do a “good job” representing the sultanate.

Ramos said that his administration did not give up the Sabah claim and scored what he described as “instant experts” who hinted as such.

“We did not abandon the claim. But you must put it in the back burner because you must prioritize the issues you want to attend to. But that does not mean you put the loss of lives in the back burner,” he explained.

If he were Aquino, Ramos said, he also would tell Kiram to stop sending forces to Sabah to save them from death at the hands of Malaysian troops.

World heard message

To Kiram and other claimants, Ramos said his message is: “[Sending forces there] is creating violence. The world is now different from what it was in the 19th century when the transfers of sovereignty, ownership and rights took place. Do you want the young people to experience war?”

“I think the message of the sultanate has been received by the world. What happened (violence) is enough,” he said.

He also said he disagreed with pronouncements that the sultan’s troops who went to Sabah should be considered terrorists and charged criminally, adding that these should be talked about first in the dialogue.

Afterward, Aquino should meet the leader of Malaysia to present what was agreed upon in the meeting, Ramos said.

Win-win strategy

The former President said the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippine East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) should be revived by the countries concerned because it was a key to improving the conditions of the people of southern Philippines, Borneo island and adjacent areas.

“The BIMP-EAGA is the win-win strategy if we are looking from the perspective of a better, more prosperous, more peaceful, more harmonious and more sustainable future for all peoples,” Ramos said.

He said the potentials of the BIMP-EAGA were so great that even foreign local governments such as Australia’s Northern Territory and Western Australia state had joined the grouping as associates.

Ramos added that during his administration, he tried to set up a corporation that would develop BIMP-EAGA. The company would be jointly operated by Malaysia, the sultanate’s list of the heirs and private sector partners.

The proceeds of the company could substitute for the annual 5,300 Malaysian ringgits as rent to the heirs of the sultanate.

Recognize legal sultan

During his term, however, the setting up of the corporation was aborted because of the delay in finalizing the heirs of the sultanate. He said he has yet to hear from the Aquino administration if it had officially recognized Kiram as the legal sultan.

Sam Miguel
03-07-2013, 09:15 AM
Consequences

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:18 pm | Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Karma, our neighbors in Malaysia must have realized by now, bites when one least expects it. The situation a full day after the massive military offensive that Malaysian security forces launched early yesterday against a few hundred followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III encamped in Lahad Datu in Sabah remains murky. But the official word from Kuala Lumpur is that the followers had disappeared into the surrounding areas.

There’s one important reason why that may be so, and a statement from a leader of the Moro National Liberation Front gives us a clue. If we can see past the understandable bravado of Muhajab Hashim, we can glimpse the underlying truth.

“Many [ex-MNLF fighters] have slipped through the security forces,” he told Agence France-Presse. “They know the area like the back of their hands because they trained there in the past.”

He is referring to the claim, still unproven at press time, that former fighters of the MNLF, the rebel movement that entered into a peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996, had sailed into Sabah to join Kiram’s followers. If they did manage to evade both the Philippine and Malaysian navies and to slip into northern Borneo, it must be because Sabah is not only the so-called southern back door but also the exit point encouraged at worst and tolerated at best by the Malaysian government.

In other words, because Kuala Lumpur did allow MNLF rebels to train in Sabah all those many years ago (or determinedly looked the other way), it is now grappling with a ghost: the prospect of armed men hiding in the Sabah countryside that they call both ancient homeland and old training ground.

To be sure, Kualu Lumpur had closed the back door, or at least oiled the rusted hinges, by the time MNLF founder Nur Misuari staged a second rebellion after a failed stint as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Misuari fled to his usual haunts, only to be pursued and arrested by the Malaysian police and deported to the Philippines. By then, Malaysia had decided that it was in its best interests to support the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. To be completely fair, we recognize that after Kuala Lumpur switched gears, it backed the peace process to the hilt. Karma, however, seems to follow its own schedule.

We do not make light of the situation in Lahad Datu and surroundings; the consequences of the misadventure, of the maladroit handling by the Aquino administration of a crisis-in-slow-motion, above all of the massive military operation launched by Kuala Lumpur, will be felt for a long time to come. But consequences, inevitable or otherwise, may be simply another name for history.

The massive air-ground offensive itself was probably a consequence of political calculations regarding the coming election in Malaysia; both the government and the opposition (led by Anwar Ibrahim, so-called friend of Filipinos and self-proclaimed admirer of Jose Rizal) have tried to outdo each other in striking nationalist postures and calling for the most aggressive action possible. The result: military aircraft dropping bombs on a band of men (and women) armed only with handguns and rifles. In other words, the politics of a close vote may have forced Kuala Lumpur’s hand. The display of military power may have been made, then, to shock and awe not the Sultan’s “intruders,” but Malaysians soon to head to the voting booths.

Sam Miguel
03-07-2013, 09:21 AM
The real sovereign

By Randy David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:17 pm | Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

We should be wary of talking about North Borneo or Sabah as if it were just a piece of real estate without inhabitants. There are people there who regard themselves as natives to the place, and identify themselves as Sabahans. They are descended from the various ethnic groups and races that over the centuries had settled and developed the place.

On Aug. 31, 1963, the Sabahans declared their own separate independence from the British. Later, they joined the newly formed, independent Federation of Malaysia, spelling out the terms of their integration in a “20-point Agreement” that stressed their autonomy. Their relationship with the central government in Kuala Lumpur has not always been smooth. But, whatever their differences might have been, they never saw themselves as in any manner allied to the Philippines.

It would be instructive to take a look at two of Sabah’s leaders at the time of independence. Tun Mustapha, known to many as the leader of Sabah’s independence, was a member of the Suluk-Bajau tribe and was believed to be a distant relation of the Sultan of Sulu. He became the first governor of Sabah under the new Malaysian federation in whose formation he played a crucial role. Donald Stephens, a leader of the Kadazandusun community, became the first chief minister of Sabah under the federation of Malaysia. His father was half-Kadazan and half-British, while his mother was half-British and half-Japanese. He grew up a Roman Catholic, converting to Islam later in life. There were others, representing the Chinese community, who negotiated the integration of an autonomous Sabah into Malaysia.

The heirs of the Sultan of Sulu claim proprietary and sovereign rights over Sabah on the ground that North Borneo was given to their family by the Sultan of Brunei as a reward sometime in the 17th century. They argue that Sabah is part of the Sultanate of Sulu, and since Sulu is part of the Philippines, they asked the Philippine government in 1962 to pursue the Sabah claim in the name of the Filipino nation and their clan.

In 1963, just before Britain relinquished control over its colonial dominion in this part of the world, the Philippines filed a preliminary claim before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Netherlands. That is as far as it has gone. Successive Philippine administrations opted not to actively pursue the claim, preferring to develop friendly relations with neighboring Malaysia, which exercises sovereign control over Sabah.

It may also have been the wrong time to press such a claim. It went against the tide of decolonization that was then sweeping the world. The dominant spirit of the time was best captured in the Dec. 14, 1960, United Nations General Assembly Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (Resolution 1514). Article 5 of that resolution stated: “Immediate steps shall be taken, in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories or all other territories which have not yet attained independence, to transfer all powers to the peoples of those territories, without any conditions or reservations, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire, without any distinction as to race, creed or color, in order to enable them to enjoy complete independence and freedom.”

Self-determination was the call of the day. And this was addressed primarily to the big colonial powers that tried to cling to their colonial dominions. Britain initially did not sign the UN resolution, choosing to keep oil-rich Brunei as a protectorate until 1984. At the same time, the British government was careful not to assume that the peoples of North Borneo and Sarawak necessarily wished to be part of the new independent federation that was then being formed by Malaya and Singapore. Sabah and Sarawak could indeed very well have declared themselves separate nation-states, the way Singapore subsequently did.

The point is that, amid intense great power rivalry over these resource-rich islands, it is important to keep in mind that there were inhabitants in these places who fiercely fought for their right to govern themselves. They are the real sovereign. Let us not forget that it is this same tacit recognition of the reasonableness and legitimacy of the quest for self-determination that has brought the Philippine government to the negotiating table to talk peace with the leaders of the Bangsamoro in Mindanao.

In view of this, how can we even think today of taking up the claim to patrimony of a Sulu royal family that presumes to have inherited dominion over Sabah? Have the Sabahans ever indicated to us that they wish to be part of the Philippine republic? Haven’t we heard of decolonization?

Let us assume that the ICJ decided to recognize the Philippine claim to Sabah. Do we then expect the Sabahans to meekly accept this legal transfer of sovereignty? Are we prepared to wage a campaign of subjugation to enforce Philippine rule on a people who have staged their own rebellions against successive foreign rulers?

These are political questions we must consider before we start pressing our claims on a piece of land whose inhabitants have never felt the hand of Philippine sovereignty. It would be useful to separate these questions from the proprietary claims of a Sulu sovereign who now invokes his Filipino citizenship. The Sultan can very well file his private claims before a Malaysian or international court; he does not need the Philippine government’s consent to do this. Since the Philippine government has not actively pursued its sovereign claim over Sabah, the Sultan is free to seek help elsewhere.

One thing he cannot do is force the Philippine state to go to war for him.

Sam Miguel
03-07-2013, 09:34 AM
Island of Contention: A Past Revisited

By Luis H. Francia

1:24 pm | Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

NEW YORK—The occupation almost three weeks ago of a village in Sabah, a Malaysian state on Borneo, by a large and armed following of the 74-year-old Sultan of Jolo Jamalul Kiram III, ended in a deadly confrontation when the Malaysian authorities sought to evict the group. A reported 26 people were killed, according to Malaysian authorities, including 18 of the Sultan’s men, and eight Malaysian police. The militants remain defiant and have vowed to die in support of the Sultan’s historic claim to Sabah.

The deadly incident reminds us that the past is still very much with us. The Sultanate of Jolo’s territory once encompassed that part of Borneo, and still, apparently, from the point of view of the Sultanate, does—the Sultan receives nominal payments from the Malaysian government, a throwback to an 1878 agreement between the Sultanate and Great Britain, in the days when Southeast Asia had basically been carved up by Western colonial powers, including Spain and the Netherlands in addition to Great Britain. The payments seem to constitute a prima facie case of ownership on the part of the Sultanate.

In 1963, British control over Sabah ended when this was ceded to Malaysia, an independent state since 1957. The Macapagal administration protested, saying that Sabah had always been a part of the Sultanate of Jolo, and thus, was an integral part of the territory of the Republic of the Philippines. When Marcos succeeded Macapagal, he continued the suit. In addition, to strengthen the country’s case, he and his military planned a secret, small-scale insurgency on the island.

Towards that end, able-bodied Moros from Mindanao were recruited by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and brought over to Corregidor for training. However, when the recruits learned why they were being trained, they refused the mission, not wanting to fight fellow Muslims. They decided to quit and return to southern Mindanao. Instead, on March 18, 1968, they were taken to a remote location on Corregidor and killed. One managed to escape to the mainland and there revealed the government’s machinations, which outraged the Muslim communities and provoked a diplomatic firestorm with Malaysia, which recalled its ambassador. The Jabidah Massacre, as it came to be known, radicalized Moro activists, among them Nur Misuari, then an academic at the University of the Philippines who went on to be one of the founders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). When President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, the MNLF engaged the Philippine military in a bloody and brutal campaign that turned southern Mindanao into a charnel house for soldiers, guerrillas, and civilians in the 1970s, at the height of martial law.

The Mindanao wars provided Malaysia an opportunity to pay back Marcos in his own coin, by providing training and a base in Malaysia for the Muslim insurgents, and to serve as a conduit for arms to the rebels provided by such countries as Libya.

There is no small measure of irony that today Malaysia, where peace talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government have been held, now finds itself at deadly odds with its brother Muslims whom it once supported. Surely it cannot be mere coincidence that these armed claimants are said to be sympathizers, if not members, of the MNLF, sidelined by the peace deal between the Aquino government and the MILF.

This convoluted history of Sabah also involves Jose Rizal, albeit tangentially. In 1891 Rizal had left Europe for good, planning on returning to his homeland but living for a brief period in the Crown Colony of Hong Kong, to consider the political situation in Manila. His family joined him there in a happy albeit short-lived reunion. Rizal contemplated the possibility of establishing a Filipino colony on Borneo, made up mostly of the townspeople of Calamba, including of course his family. Earlier, there had been a dispute between the Dominicans who controlled vast tracts of land in and around Calamba, and many tenant farmers and individuals who had cleared land. The townspeople claimed the Dominicans had extended the boundaries of their hacienda to include lands that the friars otherwise had no legal right to, and for which therefore no rents needed to be paid. The underlying charge was clear, if not spelled out: the friars were guilty of land-grabbing.

The dispute, not surprisingly, was viewed by Governor-General Valeriano Weyler as an incipient revolt that needed to be put down. He came down hard on the townspeople and in favor of the friars. He sent in soldiers to enforce the order to vacate. In addition, Paciano Rizal and several kinsmen were deported to Mindoro. This history is revisited in the tale of Kabesang Tales, a significant character in Rizal’s second novel, El Filibusterismo.

Mindful of the less than favorable conditions that would greet him on his return home, Rizal visited Borneo, to see for himself what conditions there were like. He must have liked what he saw, as he made plans for the repatriation of his fellow Filipinos, getting in touch with the British colonial authorities, who in principle agreed to a settlement on 5,000 acres of land, rent-free for three years. Rizal also wrote to Weyler’s successor, Governor General Despujol, to seek his approval. As expected, Despujol nixed the idea; too, the Spanish would have been suspicious of British motives in harboring a potentially subversive force. If the plans had gone through, Rizal would essentially have been the datu of a rather large barangay—in effect, this voyage of Calamba residents would have reprised the voyages of resettlement undertaken in the archipelago centuries earlier by Southeast Asian clans, in their outriggered balanghai.

Sam Miguel
03-07-2013, 09:41 AM
Two issues

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:14 pm | Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

I still see stuff in newspapers justifying the Kirams’ armed incursion into Sabah on the ground that they have a rightful claim to the place. Some even take the macho stance of praising them for having the balls to do what a host of Philippine governments couldn’t do. The one item specifically invoked to bolster their claim to Sabah is Jovito Salonga’s 1963 speech arguing for it.

In fact there are two issues here and not just one. The first is: Does the Sultanate of Sulu have a rightful claim to Sabah? The answer is: Arguably. The second is: Do the Kirams have the right to invade Sabah because of it? The answer is: No.

Legally at least, the sultanate has a reasonable claim to it. It was as a grant by the Sultan of Brunei to the Sultan of Sulu in 1704. The Sultan of Sulu subsequently leased it to an Austrian entrepreneur for a beggarly sum, who in turn sold out his lease rights to a British merchant, Alfred Dent, a few years later. Dent formed the British Borneo Co. in the understanding that his company merely held administrative authority over Sabah.

In 1946, the company transferred all its rights and obligations to the British Crown, which was protested by the US government which had just granted the Philippines independence. A succession of Philippine presidents then took up the cudgels for reclaiming Sabah, Congress agreeing unanimously in 1962 to conscript the presidency to it.

Not all is clear-cut, however, which is why I say “arguable.” At the very least, all these arrangements have been enforced by colonial authority, and there is one colonial agreement, the Madrid Protocol of 1885, where Spain, Britain and Germany agreed to recognize the sovereignty of Spain over the Sulu archipelago in exchange for Spain giving up all claims over North Borneo. That was how Britain, deeming the sultanate to be a subject of Spain, declared North Borneo its protectorate.

Infinitely more than that, in 1963, North Borneo attained self-government and the representatives of its three ethnic communities, the Muslims, the non-Muslims and the Chinese, ruled to join the Federation of Malaysia. Are we going to deny the rights of the Sabah people to self-rule, or self-determination, or freedom—which is the essence of sovereignty—in the name of the Sultan of Sulu originally “owning” Sabah? Are we going to turn them back into vassals of the Sultanate of Sulu? Self-determination will trump property rights anytime.

The second issue, unfortunately, has pushed back the first and made it irrelevant. The people who keep invoking Salonga’s speech conveniently forget the last part of one of his most vital statements: “In 1962 the House of Representatives, in rare unanimity, passed a resolution urging the President of the Philippines to recover North Borneo consistent with international law and procedure.” The forgotten part is obviously “consistent with international law and procedure.”

Swooping into Sabah heavily armed is not consistent with international law and procedure. Engaging the security forces of Sabah and killing eight of them while suffering 19 casualties oneself is not consistent with international law and procedure. Ambushing cops in Sabah and killing a number of them while being beaten to death for trying to take a village captive is not consistent with international law and procedure. A claim to Sabah, even if arguable, does not justify this. A claim to Sabah, even if defensible, does not defend this.

This particular truth was driven home long ago, and true enough, those who do not read their history are doomed to repeat it. The prospect of being able to add to the riches he could loot so inflamed Ferdinand Marcos he decided to forego the nicety of pursuing Sabah in ways consistent with international law and procedure and opt instead to foment an uprising there. In 1967, his military launched “Operation Merdeka,” recruiting some 200 Muslim youth from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and training them in Corregidor to become a commando unit called Jabidah. There was only one problem: They forgot to tell the recruits their real mission.

When they learned about it, and horrified at the prospect of ending up killing fellow Tausug and Sama, they mutinied. Their handlers responded by taking them to a remote airfield in batches of 12 and machine-gunning them to death. All but one survived. The plot never got off the ground. It certainly did not get off the Philippines.

The Kirams’ own plot—and that of those others who have invested in them for their own gain—has. It has gotten off the ground, it has gotten off the water, it has gotten off the Philippines. It has gotten all the way to Sabah, and created a violent conflagration there.

How will this macabre misadventure end? Badly.

The monumental tragedy isn’t just that the people who did this stand to be driven to the edge of the sea, if not extirpated, though that is an epic tragedy by itself. It is already happening as we speak; jets have flown bombing missions on the intruders’ lairs. They have shed blood, which has a way of inviting retaliation, which has a way of inviting more bloodshed.

The tragedy is also that in the end, it puts the claim on Sabah—by the Sultanate of Sulu or the Philippine government, the relationship between them has never been clear over the years—beyond reach of fulfillment. That was the effect of the Jabidah massacre, the psychology being that people who would rather argue their case with force and subterfuge, with violence and mayhem, have no case to argue. The “Tanduao massacre” has upped the ante by leaps and bounds, and will have even bigger consequences. It could end the claim forever.

Two issues, and the way the Kirams have gone about it, a loss on both counts.

Sam Miguel
03-11-2013, 08:25 AM
Palace condemns Malaysian police abuses

Groups urge gov’t to protest to KL

By TJ Burgonio, Christine O. Avendaño

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:09 am | Monday, March 11th, 2013

Malacañang on Sunday condemned the reported abuses suffered by Filipinos at the hands of Malaysian police in the crackdown on followers of the sultan of Sulu in Sabah.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is verifying the report published by the Inquirer Sunday based on the accounts given by Filipinos fleeing violence sparked by the intrusion of the followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III into Sabah.

One refugee, Amira Taradji, spoke of how Malaysian police conducting sweeps of villages in search of the sultan’s followers rounded up Filipino men, made them run as fast as they could, and shot them.

One of the men killed in Sandakan was Taradji’s brother Jumadil.

Even Filipinos with immigration papers were being rounded up and thrown into jails, Taradji said.

Some who tried to avoid arrest by showing their papers were shot, she said.

Seventy-nine people, including Tausug and Orang Suluk (people who originated from Sulu), were rounded up on Friday in police sweeps of villages to flush out supporters of Jamalul’s attempt to retake Sabah from Malaysia.

Thirty-three more, including four women, were arrested Sunday morning on suspicion of abetting the intruders, including providing them with security information.

The Semporna police chief, Firdaus Francis Abdullah, said the suspects, all foreigners, were detained at Bakau.

He did not say if the foreigners were Filipinos, but Bakau has many Filipino residents.

Firdaus said four of those arrested were believed to be intruders.

Malaysian police chief Ismail Omar reported that a teenage boy was shot dead and a man was wounded by security forces in the bushes in the battle zone Sunday.

Unacceptable

Omar did not say whether the man and the boy were followers of the Sulu sultan.

Sixty-one people have been killed in fighting since the intrusion led to violence on March 1, including 53 Filipinos and eight Malaysian policemen.

Speaking on state-run dzRB radio on Sunday, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said abuses against Filipinos in Sabah was “unacceptable” to the government.

Valte said Philippine diplomats would talk to the Malaysians about the reported abuses.

She said President Aquino spoke with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on March 2 and received assurance that the rights of the 800,000 Filipinos in Malaysia would be protected.

The DFA began verifying the Inquirer report on Sunday.

In a statement issued Sunday, the DFA said the Malaysian government should clarify the reported abuses.

“If this is true, we will tell them that this should not happen because the safety of all Filipinos in … Sabah is important,” DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said in interview on dzRB.

Hernandez said the government would appeal to Malaysia to treat Filipinos in Sabah humanely.

He said Malaysia had not responded to a Philippine request for updated information about Filipino casualties in the fighting between Malaysian security forces and followers of Jamalul led by the sultan’s brother Agbimuddin.

The Philippines has asked Malaysia to be given access to 10 sultanate followers who were captured during a police raid on Agbimuddin’s group in Tanduao village in Lahad Datu town on March 1, but the Malaysians have not responded, Hernandez said.

Malaysia also has not responded to the Philippines’ request for permission for a mercy ship to go to Sabah to pick up Filipinos who want to return home, Hernandez said.

Protest it

Omar declined to comment on the reported police abuses, saying he did not want to dignify the refugees’ claims.

Omar said the police was handling the operation against Jamalul’s followers with professionalism.

Civic and militant groups called for a “humanitarian ceasefire” and urged the government to protest the abuses.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan on Sunday pressed the government to protest the brutal crackdown on Filipinos in Sabah or its silence might be understood as a tacit approval of the Malaysian government’s mail-fisted response to the intrusion.

“The crackdown on Filipino civilians must stop. The abuses must end. The Aquino government should vigorously condemn the atrocities. Aquino himself should speak out against these atrocities. The Department of Foreign Affairs should file a formal protest against Malaysia,” Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes Jr. said.

The reported ordeal of Filipinos in Sabah has prompted at least 93 civil society groups in the Philippines and Malaysia to call for a “humanitarian ceasefire” to ensure the safety of noncombatants in the eastern Malaysian state.

The appeal is addressed to President Aquino, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Jamalul.

The groups also called for the setting up of “safe zones” where humanitarian organizations could help people fleeing from the violence in the territory.

Flight from Sabah

Filipinos have been fleeing the violence in Sabah since Monday last week.

Taradji’s group of about 400 refugees crossed the Sulu Sea in a boat from Sandakan and arrived in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, on Friday.

Three hundred more arrived in Jolo in another boat from Sandakan on Saturday with stories of Malaysian police abuses committed against Tausug residents of Sabah.

The fresh stories tended to confirm Taradji’s report of police brutality.

A female refugee said Tausug suspected of supporting Agbimuddin’s group were not allowed to buy food to prevent help from reaching the intruders, who were believed moving between the villages of Tanduao and Tanjung Batu in pairs or small units.

Stranded refugees

Sources in Lahad Datu said Malaysian police had been arresting immigrants since the killing of two policemen by Agbimuddin’s group on March 1.

The Philippine Navy on Sunday reported that 400 refugees had been stranded on Taganak Island (Turtle Island) since Saturday night, waiting to be rescued.

Navy Capt. Rene Yongque, commander of Naval Task Force 62, said the refugees, all from Sandakan, reached Philippine waters in wooden boat past 7 p.m. Saturday.

Yongque said the Navy’s vessel Sultan Kudarat had been dispatched to rescue the refugees.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development said it would help the refugees get to Bongao.—With reports from Julie Alipala, Karlos Manlupig, Allan Nawal and Ryan D. Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao; and The Star/Asia News Network

Sam Miguel
03-12-2013, 10:22 AM
Fallout

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:04 pm | Monday, March 11th, 2013

You’d imagine it was happening in Syria or Afghanistan or some war-torn part of the world. That comes from the stories being told by Filipinos who have been horribly maltreated or whose kin have been shot to death by Malaysian security forces in Sabah. In fact that place has now become as war-torn, with all its cruelties, as those other parts of the world.

They dragged the Filipino men out of their homes in Sandakan, kicked them, and beat them up, recounted 32-year-old Amira Taradji. Then they ordered them to run, and when they did, they made sport of them, shooting at them and killing some of them. A brother of Amira was killed that way. She recounted as well how other groups of Filipinos had been rounded up and arrested even though they had papers certifying them to be legal residents. “Some of those arrested did not see jail because they were shot and killed.”

Carla Manlaw, 47, said Filipinos were fleeing Sabah for Sulu and Tawi-Tawi in droves as a result of the wanton violence being wreaked by the Malaysian forces on them. “My employer had no problem with having a Filipino worker. But what bothered me was the police.” She herself took the first ride out of Sandakan on a creaky boat, joining the crush of people there and braving the choppy waters to get to safety. Absolute fear gripped every one of them, as shown by the hastiness of their flight.

“We are asking our government to investigate now,” says Jolo, Sulu Mayor Hussin Amin. “Refugees from Sandakan and Sabah have spoken to us about their ordeal. If indeed what they have been telling us is true, then Malaysian authorities are not just targeting the Kirams in Lahad Datu.” Amin said he believed the stories because the children showed signs of deep trauma, being deathly scared at the sight of policemen; several jumped ship off the port of Jolo thinking they were still in Sabah.

But the ordeal of the evacuees is far from over. It is not merely their sheer number that poses the most daunting problems, though that is daunting enough in itself. One government official predicted that this was going to be worse than the expulsion of 64,000 Filipinos by Malaysia in 2002. Amira reveals what the biggest ordeal will be. She has brought only enough money to last her and her family a short while. She had lived in Sabah nearly all her life and knows next to nothing about the Philippines.

“We do not even know which way Calinan is now.” That is the sound of desperation. That is the sound of being lost.

Amin says he wants the Philippine government to investigate what’s happening in Sabah. Fair enough. In fact, government shouldn’t just investigate, it should protest the monstrosities against the Filipinos that are taking place there. It should lodge a bitter complaint to the United Nations and whatever international agencies, human rights and humanitarian, exist that vociferate against this to try to put a stop to this. It should come to the aid of the evacuees with all the political, financial and moral support it can muster. These are Filipinos in peril, these are Filipinos in need of succor, these are Filipinos in need of saving. Government should save them, or die trying.

But to act as though this were government’s fault, if only by negligence, that is not fair, enough or at all. To act as though government is to blame for all this by its not expressing support or solidarity or justification for the Kirams’ act of attempting to impose sovereignty on an already sovereign people, indeed by its cajoling, demanding and ordering the Kirams to stop their madness and come home to where they belong, if at all they belong anywhere, that is not fair, enough or at all. To act as though the blood now being spilled in Sabah clings to government’s hands, which you do by being silent about the Kirams besieging Sabah, which you do by not condemning the Kirams for completely gratuitously and idiotically starting a war, which you do by blithely ignoring the Kirams inviting a fallout on the Filipinos in Malaysia of catastrophic proportions, that is not fair, enough or at all.

What in Allah’s name can anyone, Christian or Muslim, Filipino or Malaysian, expect from the Kiram group swooping into Sabah, refusing to leave after repeated warnings, holing up in Tanduao, ambushing and killing cops, and defying the Malaysian government to do its worst? That the cops will not retaliate on everyone who looks remotely like a Filipino? That the Malaysian government will not in fact do its worst?

Can anyone not have foreseen this fallout from what the Kirams did? Can anyone not have expected this fallout from what the Kirams did? You know thousands of Filipinos exist in a precarious state in Sabah and elsewhere in Malaysia, most of them being illegals, and some of them being presumed illegals even when they are legal. You know Malaysia is about to have an election and its prime minister, Najib Razak, needs the Sabah vote to win and will be at pains to show the residents there he is not a wimp, something the Kirams have just given him an excuse to show. You know Malaysia’s definitions of wimpishness, and conversely strength, correspond to Ferdinand Marcos’ own definition of them, as shown in its arm-twisting of the 64,000 Filipinos in 2002.

And you up and do something as stupid as invading Sabah?

And you blame government for it? And you blame the citizens for not flying to support it?

Can anything be more anti-Filipino? I said it last week, it’s not just that it puts the peace treaty between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in peril, it’s that it puts the Filipinos in Sabah in harm’s way. How much in the way of harm? How much harm? How far the length and depth of harm? Look at the evacuees. Look at their fear and trembling.

Look at the fallout.

Sam Miguel
03-13-2013, 08:00 AM
‘Ninoy vowed to drop Sabah claim to get KL support vs Marcos’

By Janvic Mateo

(The Philippine Star) | Updated March 13, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. had promised Malaysia in 1983 that the Philippines would drop its claim over Sabah in exchange for its support in the move to oust strongman Ferdinand Marcos, a former foreign affairs official revealed yesterday.

Hermes Dorado, former national territory division head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, said Aquino met with then Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammad Mahathir before he went back to the Philippines and was assassinated on Aug. 21, 1983.

Dorado said there were no official records of the supposed meeting between Aquino and Mahathir, but said he “became privy to this bit of intelligence” from former ambassador and retired general Rafael Ileto.

“General Ileto indirectly confirmed that Ninoy Aquino asked for help from Mahathir in exchange for dropping the Sabah claim when he gains power,” Dorado told a forum at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City.

Dorado said Ileto was the person assigned to monitor Aquino’s movement on his journey back to Manila.

“There was a commitment to help oust Marcos,” he added. “That is the reason why the government today is somehow reluctant to support the Sabah claim.”

“Our hands are tied today because the leadership up to this day is committed to drop the Philippine claim of Sabah,” he said.

According to Dorado, the clearest proof of Ninoy’s supposed pledge to Malaysia will be found in the 1987 Constitution, which was written during the presidency of his widow Corazon Aquino.

Dorado said the 1987 Constitution amended the first article of the 1973 Constitution and removed the phrase, “and all other territories belonging to the Philippines by historic right or legal title.”

The 1987 Constitution revised the definition of Philippine territory and “deleted Sabah as a historic claim backed up by the legal title pertaining to the sultanate of Sulu,” he added.

Dorado said Mrs. Aquino had no choice but to honor Ninoy’s commitment to Mahathir because she needed support from ASEAN nations to legitimize her ascendancy to the presidency through the people power revolution.

“Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir adamantly refused to attend the ASEAN Summit in Manila until President Cory made a firm commitment to amend Article 1 of the 1973 Constitution,” Dorado pointed out.

“Malaysian hard-ball diplomatic and guerrilla war maneuverings, backed by shrewd use of economic leverage, sourced from huge revenues from oil extracted in Sabah, were completed by 1987,” he added.

“They succeeded in forcing the Constitutional Commission to drop the Philippine Sabah claim, hands down.”

Dorado said the amended Baselines Law approved in March 2009 resulted in the exclusion of Sabah from the Philippine territory.

He said the amended law removed Section 2 of the 1968 law that included the phrase, “…the territory of Sabah, situated in North Borneo, over which the Republic of the Philippines has acquired dominion and sovereignty.”

“Removal of the specific reference to Sabah represented a disastrous outcome to the claims of the sultanate of Sulu,” Dorado said.

He claimed the results of the supposed “Ninoy-Mahathir pact” have destroyed all peaceful possibilities of pursuing the country’s claims.

Proprietary rights

Reacting to Dorado’s presentation, Princess Jacel Kiram – daughter of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III – maintained that Filipinos have proprietary rights in Sabah.

“We have so much wealth in Sabah na dapat tayo ang nakikinabang (we should be the ones benefitting),” Jacel said.

She said the lease agreement over North Borneo expired in 1978.

She accused the Aquino administration of protecting the interests of the Malaysian prime minister rather than the interest of the Filipino people.

“I would prefer to be another (nationality) rather than a Filipino citizen under our current set of leaders,” she said.

During the forum, Jacel confirmed the meeting between her uncle Sultan Bantilan Esmail Kiram II and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II.

“This is the first official talk from our side and from the side of the government,” she said, declining to provide additional information as she was not privy to what was discussed in the meeting.

Jacel said the development was a “good gesture” on the part of the government, and that its intention was for the benefit of the Filipino people.

Citing latest information from Sabah, Jacel said Agbimuddin Kiram and his people are safe but a lot of Filipinos have become victims of excessive force by Malaysian security forces. – With Paolo Romero, Jaime Laude, Marvin Sy

Sam Miguel
03-13-2013, 08:09 AM
Saycon denies conspiracy; Nur to be summoned

By Rey Galupo and Mike Frialde

(The Philippine Star) | Updated March 13, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - An adviser to Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III appeared yesterday before the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to deny links to an alleged conspiracy behind the incursion in Sabah by followers of the sultan.

This developed as the NBI yesterday recalled at the last minute the subpoenas issued to the Kiram family and their spokesman Abraham Idjirani.

But an NBI source said former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARRM) governor Nur Misuari would be summoned for questioning on the issue.

Pastor “Boy” Saycon, secretary-general of Council for Philippine Affairs (COPA), said he had nothing to do with the raging crisis in Sabah and accused Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang of floating a conspiracy angle.

On Friday, the NBI summoned Saycon “to shed light on the ongoing Sabah crisis,” which has claimed the lives of dozens, including Kiram followers and Malaysian forces. The crisis has embarrassed both the Philippine and Malaysian governments and shown how porous the two countries’ borders are.

The crisis began on Feb. 12 when some 300 followers of the sultan – led by his younger brother Agbimuddin – crossed over to Sabah’s coastal village of Lahad Datu to stake their claim on the territory. Malaysia eventually launched an offensive to drive them away, killing dozens.

Saycon, also known as a political strategist, showed up at the office of NBI deputy director for intelligence services Reynaldo Esmeralda and later told reporters that Carandang had tried to “sell” his conspiracy theory to foreign media.

After failing to get their attention, Saycon said Carandang resorted to a text barrage to deliver his message.

On the withdrawal of the subpoenas to the Kirams, Saycon said “there was a miscommunication and so, they said they are retrieving (them) back.”

Saycon told reporters that prior to the arrival of NBI agents at the Kirams’ house in Maharlika Village in Taguig City, he had already requested the NBI not to compel the Kirams to appear before the agency.

He said Idjirani is set to appear tomorrow at the NBI – voluntarily. “No subpoena. His visit there is voluntary,” he said.

With NBI’s recall of the subpoenas, “everyone is now at peace,” Saycon said.

“No more heavy heart. The discussions have gone softly, which should be the case. What’s simmering is the deportation issue,” he said in Filipino, referring to the exodus of Filipinos from Sabah, who claimed they were abused by Malaysian forces.

Saycon said he was glad the NBI finished its investigation into the Sabah incident in just 11 days.

NBI agents arrived at the Kiram family residence in Maharlika Village at about 3:10 p.m.

The sultan’s wife Fatima Cecilia Kiram received the first subpoenas for daughter Princess Jacel as well as for Idjirani.

About 15 minutes later, two NBI agents arrived to serve the subpoenas for Fatima as well as for the sultan and his brother Sultan Bantilan Esmail Kiram.

The subpoenas, signed by NBI director Nonnatus Rojas, ordered the Kirams and Idjirani to appear and “shed light on the investigation being conducted regarding the Sabah incident.”

Saycon earlier admitted acting as an adviser to Kiram in bringing the sultanate’s Sabah claim to the United Nations. He describes himself as the sultan’s adviser on foreign, economic and cultural relations for the past 12 years.

Aside from Saycon, the NBI is also set to summon former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales and Muslim convert Waldy Carbonell, a former radio commentator.

A highly placed source, meanwhile, said Misuari “is going to be subpoenaed this week.”

While NBI spokesman and deputy director for regional operations Virgilio Mendez had declared that “there is no reason yet to call Misuari up,” the source said the bureau is just being careful about naming names “because it could heighten the already brittle situation.”

Sam Miguel
03-13-2013, 08:15 AM
‘Ninoy vowed to drop Sabah claim to get KL support vs Marcos’

By Janvic Mateo

(The Philippine Star) | Updated March 13, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. had promised Malaysia in 1983 that the Philippines would drop its claim over Sabah in exchange for its support in the move to oust strongman Ferdinand Marcos, a former foreign affairs official revealed yesterday.

Hermes Dorado, former national territory division head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, said Aquino met with then Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammad Mahathir before he went back to the Philippines and was assassinated on Aug. 21, 1983.

Dorado said there were no official records of the supposed meeting between Aquino and Mahathir, but said he “became privy to this bit of intelligence” from former ambassador and retired general Rafael Ileto.

“General Ileto indirectly confirmed that Ninoy Aquino asked for help from Mahathir in exchange for dropping the Sabah claim when he gains power,” Dorado told a forum at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City.

Dorado said Ileto was the person assigned to monitor Aquino’s movement on his journey back to Manila.

“There was a commitment to help oust Marcos,” he added. “That is the reason why the government today is somehow reluctant to support the Sabah claim.”

“Our hands are tied today because the leadership up to this day is committed to drop the Philippine claim of Sabah,” he said.

According to Dorado, the clearest proof of Ninoy’s supposed pledge to Malaysia will be found in the 1987 Constitution, which was written during the presidency of his widow Corazon Aquino.

Dorado said the 1987 Constitution amended the first article of the 1973 Constitution and removed the phrase, “and all other territories belonging to the Philippines by historic right or legal title.”

The 1987 Constitution revised the definition of Philippine territory and “deleted Sabah as a historic claim backed up by the legal title pertaining to the sultanate of Sulu,” he added.

Dorado said Mrs. Aquino had no choice but to honor Ninoy’s commitment to Mahathir because she needed support from ASEAN nations to legitimize her ascendancy to the presidency through the people power revolution.

“Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir adamantly refused to attend the ASEAN Summit in Manila until President Cory made a firm commitment to amend Article 1 of the 1973 Constitution,” Dorado pointed out.

“Malaysian hard-ball diplomatic and guerrilla war maneuverings, backed by shrewd use of economic leverage, sourced from huge revenues from oil extracted in Sabah, were completed by 1987,” he added.

“They succeeded in forcing the Constitutional Commission to drop the Philippine Sabah claim, hands down.”

Dorado said the amended Baselines Law approved in March 2009 resulted in the exclusion of Sabah from the Philippine territory.

He said the amended law removed Section 2 of the 1968 law that included the phrase, “…the territory of Sabah, situated in North Borneo, over which the Republic of the Philippines has acquired dominion and sovereignty.”

“Removal of the specific reference to Sabah represented a disastrous outcome to the claims of the sultanate of Sulu,” Dorado said.

He claimed the results of the supposed “Ninoy-Mahathir pact” have destroyed all peaceful possibilities of pursuing the country’s claims.

Proprietary rights

Reacting to Dorado’s presentation, Princess Jacel Kiram – daughter of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III – maintained that Filipinos have proprietary rights in Sabah.

“We have so much wealth in Sabah na dapat tayo ang nakikinabang (we should be the ones benefitting),” Jacel said.

She said the lease agreement over North Borneo expired in 1978.

She accused the Aquino administration of protecting the interests of the Malaysian prime minister rather than the interest of the Filipino people.

“I would prefer to be another (nationality) rather than a Filipino citizen under our current set of leaders,” she said.

During the forum, Jacel confirmed the meeting between her uncle Sultan Bantilan Esmail Kiram II and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II.

“This is the first official talk from our side and from the side of the government,” she said, declining to provide additional information as she was not privy to what was discussed in the meeting.

Jacel said the development was a “good gesture” on the part of the government, and that its intention was for the benefit of the Filipino people.

Citing latest information from Sabah, Jacel said Agbimuddin Kiram and his people are safe but a lot of Filipinos have become victims of excessive force by Malaysian security forces. – With Paolo Romero, Jaime Laude, Marvin Sy

My dear Princess, if that be the case then please apply for Malaysaina citizenship forthwith. I'm sure Malaysia will welcome such a devout, intellgient and fearless Muslim woman with open arms.

Sam Miguel
03-13-2013, 08:31 AM
‘We have met the enemy and he is us’

DEMAND AND SUPPLY

By Boo Chanco

(The Philippine Star) | Updated March 13, 2013 - 12:00am

I don’t remember offhand who actually said that or if it is just a paraphrase of what was actually said. It is however something we Pinoys can say today with almost perfect accuracy.

Having lived here all six decades of my life, I am aware of our self destructive tendencies. That national characteristic was in full bloom over the past two weeks.

I initially blamed the political season. Every politician, specially those in danger of losing their senatorial bid, can be expected to make mindless and normally ill-advised statements about the Sabah situation. Then there is the usual coterie of confirmed P-Noy haters who think he can do nothing right and therefore take every opportunity to bash him.

Things are however starting to get out of hand. The Sabah situation is a major foreign affairs problem that requires delicate diplomacy. And as we should have learned from our recent experience with China, diplomacy cannot be conducted by writing press releases for mass media and impossible to do through status updates in Facebook or Twitter.

I am amazed at how venomous the commentary on the Sabah situation had become. Many people have been foaming in the mouth in denouncing P-Noy, who happens to be the country’s principal diplomatic official. I am afraid that by demonizing P-Noy in a way that makes him look stupid, negligent or even seem like a traitor reduces his international credibility and his ability to protect the national interest.

This is why in the United States, the Democrats and the Republicans may hate each other but when it comes to matters of foreign affairs, they talk with one voice. When POTUS speaks on behalf of the US government before a foreign government, the opposition does not publicly repudiate him. They have enough opportunity to voice and vote their conviction anyway when a treaty is presented to the Senate for ratification.

The way many of us behaved the past two weeks is downright shameful. Many allowed emotions to get the better of them. They failed to give the President the benefit of the doubt. At the very least, they have to acknowledge that the President is the one person who has the best overall view of the situation and has the responsibility to decide not just for one Filipino’s interest but for the entire nation’s.

For starters, no matter what ownership rights the Sulu Sultan may have over Sabah, he had no right to take things in his own hands. He cannot blackmail the entire nation into going to war with Malaysia as a fait accompli to support his family’s land claim.

Because what the Sultan did involved a foreign government, he usurped the exclusive right of the President to conduct the nation’s foreign policy. Of course Malacañang will not take this usurpation sitting down as it shouldn’t.

Malacañang should view that “Sabah invasion” of the Kirams in the context of our national interest. And that national interest must take into account the welfare of about a million Filipinos living in Sabah, mostly illegally; the safety and the jobs of about 100,000 OFWs earning a living in Malaysia and the implications to our relations with Malaysia particularly in the light of the ongoing MILF peace talks.

I don’t know if the hotheads castigating P-Noy actually expected him to declare war on Malaysia or get Congress to do that in defense of the property rights of the Kirams. To be effective, P-Noy had to make sure he did not antagonize the Malaysian government in the process of presenting our point of view.

I am sure things were going on in the background because this is what diplomacy is all about. The success of such diplomatic efforts can be limited by inflammatory public statements specially from politicians who should know better.

Having said all that, I am also conscious of our right as citizens of this Republic to voice our opinions on matters of national concern. Our officials, after all, are exercising powers we delegated to them and they have to know how we feel.

We can for instance, demand an explanation from P-Noy why no one in his administration knew that the Sultan was planning a Sabah invasion on his own. This is a clear failure of intelligence. Because of the problems in our Southern backdoor, one would expect that our intelligence people are even more alert on goings on there.

If the Sultan’s “Royal Army” can leave the Philippines and land in Sabah undetected, we can assume that al-Qaeda related terrorists can enter Philippine territory just as easily. There is no excuse for failure of intelligence specially because we allocate billions of pesos in intelligence funds that are exempted from audit.

This failure of intelligence justifies suspicion that intelligence funds are being used for matters other than intelligence. Or maybe we have incompetent intelligence people… or both. Maybe too, P-Noy should retire his National Security Adviser who may be well past his prime and get someone more up to the challenge of the job.

P-Noy should also not ignore the failure of the Department of Foreign Affairs in this matter. The apology over the mishandling of the letter of Sultan Kiram is not nearly enough because this is the second hot issue DFA has mishandled during P-Noy’s watch.

Maybe too, it is time to retire the Foreign Secretary. I have no doubt that he is well meaning and may even be competent in some aspects of our foreign policy challenges. What China, and now Sabah, has revealed is that we need a foreign secretary who is better versed and better experienced in dealing with our neighbors than one whose only claim for the job is that he has influential friends in Washington DC.

Since age doesn’t seem to be a problem for P-Noy, perhaps it is time to tap a veteran diplomat like Rodolfo Severino whose expertise and career was spent dealing with Asean countries. Rod also spent time in the US as a diplomat.

An expert on the law of the seas, Rod has written a book on it. He is also just the right man to help us deal with China on our Panatag and Spratly problems.

Diplomacy does not only require an intimate knowledge of the issues which Rod has. It also requires years of actual dealings and trust built with counterparts in the region through personal relationships (may pinagsamahan) which Rod has chalked up in his diplomatic career capped by service as Secretary General of Asean.

I applaud Sec. Del Rosario’s gung-ho spirit in flying out to crisis regions of the world to protect our OFWs in war-torn Libya, Syria and elsewhere. But as we are seeing now, the OFW part of DFA’s current mandate is the easy part. Good old fashioned diplomacy is still the main responsibility of DFA and that can be best exercised by an experienced diplomat like Rod and not by an accidental one like Mr. del Rosario.

I expect the conduct of foreign affairs will be a continuing tough spot for P-Noy unless he gets the right people in place. Even as he is ultimately responsible for the conduct of foreign relations, P-Noy needs the help of really good foreign policy experts to get the job done. He doesn’t seem to have the benefit of sound advice.

China… and then Sabah… I don’t know what more proof P-Noy needs to accept the fact that something is not right at DFA. And just to cap the problems there… I guess we can’t expect much from a bureaucracy that can’t even give a citizen his passport within a week or less.

It now takes a month to get an appointment date to file an application and another three weeks to actually get delivery of a passport. A prospective OFW can lose a job offer while waiting for a passport to be issued.

For a country that survives because of OFWs, it is sad they can’t handle something as basic as prompt issuance of passports. With that in mind, I guess expecting them to handle something as complex as China and Sabah is probably asking too much.

In the meantime, it would be best to hold the vicious attacks on P-Noy on Sabah. The Malaysians are probably laughing at how we are trashing the international reputation of our own President, impairing his ability to negotiate.

If we can’t respect our President enough to represent us abroad, why should the Malaysians even care what he says? They can ignore P-Noy’s protests over the barbaric treatment of our people in Sabah because some of us are giving the impression he isn’t to be taken seriously. We are indeed our own worse enemy.

Passports

Speaking of passports, I recall someone saying that if people actually looked like what they look like in their passport photos very few countries will let them in.

Sam Miguel
03-15-2013, 08:51 AM
We pay for forgetting

By Jose Ma. Montelibano

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:39 pm | Thursday, March 14th, 2013

The noisy Filipino went at it again. All the commentators, from traditional media to social media, could simply not help themselves. We had to bash ourselves again, maybe because the rest of the world had nothing but good to say about us. When people have gotten used to being failures, they do not know what to do with success.

Democracy guarantees the freedom of speech, even the kind that does not help rebuild our broken self-image from decades of decline. The memory of a brutal dictatorship or presidents who plundered must have become so much of our inner context that we miss them when they are not there. It matters little that we went to the streets to be rid of them because they had been our furniture for so long. And their children can pervert the historical truth because we easily forget and do not teach our own children to remember the evil wrought on a whole people.

I saw two TV shows from competing channels a few nights ago. One talk show host was her usual stern self, recounting the deception of Great Britain and Malaysia, then hitting the administration for its conduct during the Sabah adventurism of a pretender to the Sultanate. The only good thing about the show is that, for once since Sabah was ceded to the Sultanate of Sulu by the Sultan of Brunei more than 300 years ago, for once since Sabah was leased in a private transaction by the Sultanate of Sulu to a British trading firm more than 120 years ago, the present general public was given a brief history about Sabah over mass media.

How many can possibly remember about what happened in 1963 when the Sultanate asked the Philippine government for help in recovering Sabah? Sabah is more known as a name in a map more than as a Philippine territory, before or after 1963? Of course, how can Filipinos, outside of the Sultanate, be emotionally attached to a land that they never knew was theirs, a land they had never been to, a land they had never benefited from? A stupid, trying-hard-to-be provocateur said in one post in Facebook that Sabah is taught in grade school and that the Aquino administration should have known better. What grade school did he go to – in Sabah?

In the other channel, a former security adviser was being interviewed. He said a mouthful that meant little altogether – except for one simple but most important statement. He said that the Filipino people do not know about Sabah as they do not know about Scarborough Shoal and the Spratlys. And here lies the truth, the painful truth, the dangerous truth. Our people have not been told the truth, the historical truth. Because of that, unless we are attacked as Spain, America and Japan attacked us, we do not fight to protect what belongs to us collectively. And that is why Filipinos will not fight for Sabah.

Before a Filipino fights for Sabah, he or she will have to go to Sulu, Basilan or Tawi-Tawi. How many who are not from these areas go there, or have gone there in their lifetime? The answer gives us an estimate of how many will be willing to fight for Sabah. Filipinos who truly want to help the Tausugs would have been in Tausug provinces already. Those who are afraid of going there do not – and the overwhelming majority has not, including the most noisy from social media.

We are in a democracy. No matter how inefficient that may be in its application, democracy is the style of governance that we have chosen. Marcos forced martial law on us and we removed him because we wanted our freedom back. Estrada was seen as corrupt and we went to the streets to remove him. Gloria was seen as corrupt so we elected a new president who would prosecute her. That is democracy. We do not send armed contingents to another country even if we have a claim on it because that invites a severe raise-back – and it has. Many wrongs do not make a right, and nations will apply the kind of laws they have to serve their interests.

That there are reports of indiscriminate abuse on non-combatants that are Filipino should alarm us. Another wrong makes the mess even more complicated to resolve. Our government is protesting and must protest even more vigorously when evidence proves the reports as true. It is not about a claim when we protest these abuses, it is about the law that we go by as nations, whether we are Malaysia or the Philippines. Malaysia, too, will have to face the consequences of the wrong it commits.

There is one great benefit, though, that is being born from the current controversy. Going to Sabah in such a dramatic and radical manner has raised the consciousness of many Filipinos to parts of their own history. Any movement towards the historical truth is a blessing and will enlighten the blindness of a people long denied important components of Philippine history.

Losing Sabah is not the fault of the Philippine government. It never had Sabah to lose in the first place. The Kirams should examine their own history and ask themselves how in the world did they lose what they believe to be theirs. Ownership demands responsibility, too. There was no force used to get Sabah, but maybe there was negligence. If the Kirams never waged war to get Sabah and they say it was theirs since the early 1700’s, why should Filipinos be dragged to conflict with Malaysia?

The Sultanate and all its pretenders should agree on one story, tell this to the Filipino people, then hope that the people will embrace both history and Sabah. Only when that has become important to the people will Filipinos lend their active support to the Sabah claim. It does not help that the daughter of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III was quoted in a newspaper report that she does not want to be Filipino with the kind of leaders we have. She should renounce her being Filipino. It is easier to do that than recover Sabah.

Joescoundrel
03-16-2013, 09:05 AM
Global audience for Sabah

Philippine Daily Inquirer
11:23 pm | Friday, March 15th, 2013
3 40 21

Two events this past week may mark a turning point in the Sabah dispute. The first was when the Philippine government called upon its Malaysian counterpart to “clarify” reports about human rights abuses by Malaysian security forces on our nationals. The second was when the Malaysian government barred Filipino journalists from entering Sabah, only to relent a day later and allow them access to evacuation camps. These show that both sides realize that there is a global audience they must address and global standards of justice they need to satisfy.

Until then, the Philippines was hell-bent on appeasing Malaysia as the guarantor of its peace negotiations with Moro rebels, while disregarding other Islamic groups as nuisances. Until then, too, Malaysia had used Sabah as political football in the ongoing electoral contest between Prime Minister Najib Razak and the irrepressible and charismatic opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, each playing the nationalist card.

The Philippine government has been at a loss on how to respond to the irredentist claims of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III. We had conveniently placed Sabah on the “back burner,” and rather inexplicably allowed Malaysia, our erstwhile protagonist, to serve as the not-so-neutral broker in our peace talks with the Islamic secessionists in Mindanao that bore fruit with the signing of the Framework Agreement for peace last year.

But Malacañang was also hard-pressed to pooh-pooh the claims of the Sultan of Sulu because it shows the fundamental lie to the vaunted Framework Agreement. Now we know that not all the stakeholders in Muslim Mindanao had been consulted, and that an important stakeholder—the sultan, his heirs and followers—had been left out. This is not surprising at that. After all, why would Malaysia broker a peace agreement where it would lose a territory so rich in natural resources? Even worse, the sultan, now accused of aggression and bloodshed, had apparently written Malacañang several times to ask simply to be heard in the peace talks, and indeed had even lent his support to the peace process. His pleas were ignored.

That is why Malacañang has been accused of acting as Malaysia’s handmaiden. All along, its audience was Malaysia, disowning the sultan’s folk and even threatening prosecution.

That is why Malacañang’s human rights call shows a sea change in attitude. Our government has officially decried what UP Prof. Harry Roque has called “crimes against humanity,” of undocumented arrests, torture and harassment. Now the audience is us, the sovereign Filipino people, and also the global human rights community. “Kayo ang boss ko.” Ah, finally, someone in the Palace remembered. Better turn down the arrogance, too, and don’t forget which side your bread is buttered. And already, Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, has called on the Malaysian government to either file proper charges against the detainees or release them.

On the other hand, Malaysia’s attempt to control the press coverage in Sabah reminds us that Sabah has been mainly domestic politics for it. Earlier, the Malaysian defense minister barred Filipino journalists from covering Sabah to prevent the “misreporting” that “strain[ed] relations” between the two countries. It has also been reported that Malaysian journalists have been advised by the Sabah government to refer to the Sultan of Sulu’s followers as “terrorists” and to refrain from identifying them as the sultan’s “royal army.”

The Inquirer later reported that the Malaysian government has allowed reporters from the Inquirer and GMA7 to enter the evacuation center, together with the humanitarian and consular team sent by the Philippine government. But yesterday, the Inquirer was again barred from getting into an evacuation center.

The Inquirer stands by its reports. These were gathered from the field, by journalists sent to Sabah to see for themselves the events as they unfold, and to report to the Filipino public the first-hand accounts of the survivors in the evacuation centers. The reports are fully documented.

It has been said that “truth is the first casualty of war.” Sure, there is no war here, just “internal armed conflict” or “internal disturbances,” to use the jargon, but if Malaysian authorities wanted to squelch the rumors about human rights atrocities, suppressing foreign press coverage doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

Sabah is about genuine grievances by living human communities. A peace bargain that papers over deeply felt rancor will be a fragile peace, indeed.

Joescoundrel
03-16-2013, 09:08 AM
^ Whatever else is said and done the fact still remains that a "poor" sultan somehow was able to get 200-odd followers over to a sovereign territory and shoot shit up. Let us never forget that in spite of all the "human rights" talk, this Kiram had and continues to commit a crime, against both Philippine laws and Malaysian laws, for which he must be held to account. Even a crime victim is not entitled to commit a crime because he was "ignored".

Joescoundrel
03-17-2013, 08:18 PM
Peaceful ways to settle Sabah dispute

By Artemio V. Panganiban

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:28 pm | Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Both our Constitution and the United Nations Charter prohibit war and the use of force in settling disputes. Article 33 (not 51, as I wrote two weeks ago; thanks to eagle-eyed reader Zara Mari Dy of the College of Law, Silliman University) of the UN Charter obligates its members, including the Philippines and Malaysia, to “first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.”

Judicial settlement. Of these peaceful methods, the hands-down favorite of many Filipinos is judicial settlement in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the “principal judicial organ of the United Nations.” The ICJ is composed of 15 “independent” judges (they are not called “justices”) elected by “absolute majority of votes in the General Assembly and in the Security Council,” voting separately, for a term of nine years. They may be reelected.

ICJ judges are required to be “of high moral character, who possess the qualifications required in their respective countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices, or jurisconsults of recognized competence in international law.”

The present head of the ICJ is Peter Tomka of Slovakia. (His official title is president, not chief justice.) Its current members or judges are from Brazil, China, France, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Russia, Somalia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uganda. Only one Filipino has ever sat in the ICJ—Chief Justice Cesar Bengzon (now deceased). A few years ago, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago ran for an ICJ seat but unfortunately lost.

(Parenthetically, the ICJ should be distinguished from the International Criminal Court, or ICC, to which Senator Santiago was elected on Dec. 12, 2011. The ICC was born on July 1, 2002, when the treaty creating it, called the Rome Statute, took effect. Unlike the ICJ, the ICC is not an organ of the UN, but like the ICJ, the ICC is headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands)

Consented jurisdiction. Only states may be parties in “contentious cases” in the ICJ. Since the Sultanate of Sulu is not a state, it cannot sue or be sued there. On the other hand, the Philippines—being a sovereign state—may file suit. The jurisdiction of the court over contentious cases depends on the consent of the parties. Hence, if Malaysia refuses to be a party, then the ICJ cannot acquire jurisdiction and cannot hear the Sabah dispute, much less render judgment thereon.

An ICJ decision has no binding force except as between the parties. Once a state agrees to sue or be sued, it effectively obligates itself to obey the judgment. If the defeated party does not, the winning party may ask for sanctions in the UN Security Council, which in turn is obligated to find ways to enforce it, including the use of peacekeepers.

Unlike Philippine courts, the ICJ may render “advisory opinions” when requested by a UN organ (like the General Assembly or Security Council) or a specialized UN agency (like the International Labor Organization), if authorized by the General Assembly. While advisory opinions are not binding, they enjoy great persuasive effect and respect.

However, the ICJ may refuse to render an advisory opinion if the question asked relates to a pending dispute between two states, or if it needs more facts and information that cannot be obtained without hearing the concerned parties in a formal suit.

Security Council and referendum. UN members may bring directly to the Security Council or the General Assembly any dispute that threatens international peace and security. This referral becomes obligatory when the parties fail to settle their disputes by any of the peaceful methods listed in Article 33 of the UN Charter, and when such failure may result in the rupture of international peace and security.

In dealing with such referral, the Security Council may “call upon” the parties to continue their peaceful methods of settlement, or recommend recourse to the ICJ, or in the extreme, work out directly the terms and conditions of settlement.

Another peaceful method is recourse to regional agencies or organizations, like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in which both the Philippines and Malaysia are members. But again, patience and diplomacy are necessary because regional (and international) bodies are always respectful of the sovereign equality of states and are cautious about imposing their will on them.

Despite this limitation, regional organizations, like the Organization of American States and the African Union, have been successful in settling disputes among their members.

Finally, there is the very political solution of self-determination, meaning a referendum or plebiscite to determine the will of the people of Sabah. Again, this depends on the agreement of Malaysia, which exercises actual (at least, de facto) sovereignty over Sabah. Note that Malaysia is of the position that a referendum was conducted in 1963 in which the Sabahans allegedly opted to be under Malaysian sovereignty.

A plebiscite or referendum includes the possibility that the Sabahans might vote for independence, instead of being under the tutelage of Malaysia or the Philippines. A fair, open and free plebiscite under the auspices of an independent body like the United Nations or even of Asean may be the most feasible and lasting solution to this festering problem.

Sam Miguel
03-19-2013, 01:31 PM
Get real

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:20 pm | Monday, March 18th, 2013

Malaysia is treating us like dirt, one says, and we are taking it like wimps. The Malaysians are acting like they are our master, says another, and government is bowing to it. Malaysia is massacring Filipinos with impunity, says still another, and government will not rage and rail over it. Malaysia has grabbed a part of Philippine territory, says still another, and government has ceded it altogether. We should not call it “Team PNoy,” says still another, we should call it “Team Malaysia.”

Who’s to blame for the deaths of the people who have tried to seize Sabah by force? Government. Who’s to blame for the deaths of the many more Filipinos who are being driven off Sabah dead or alive? Government. Who’s to blame for the insult and injury the country is suffering in the hands of Malaysia? Government.

Can anything be more idiotic?

Of course government should protest the ferocity and viciousness with which the Filipinos in Sabah are being quite literally pushed to the sea, one that makes little distinction between legal and illegal, one that makes little distinction between combatant and noncombatant, one that makes little distinction between life and death. Of course we ourselves must vociferate and expostulate against the human rights violations and outright atrocities being wreaked on the Filipinos in Sabah, that is about life and that is about Filipinos, two of the most precious things for us.

But to do all this without condemning the irresponsibility and criminal recklessness of those who provoked this crisis, who stoked this conflagration, who conjured this horror into being, that is stupid. To be silent, to be dumb, about the original sin, the original cause, the original act that precipitated all this, that is idiotic. That is to be anti-Filipino. That is to make us the laughingstock of the world.

Before the Kirams’ hilariously named “royal army”—can anything be more atavistic?—landed in Tanduao to reclaim a piece of land they lost long ago and liberate a people who are already free, the Filipinos in Sabah lived relatively peacefully. Although many of them were illegals, they had managed to work or earn from various livelihoods without being unduly harassed by the cops. Though many of them were illegals, they had managed to get along with their Sabah neighbors, not all of whom were fellow Tausug, dreaming one day of at least becoming legals and at most of becoming Malaysians.

Then suddenly the Kirams came uninvited, unwelcomed and unwanted, and overnight everything changed. The security forces in Sabah moved to expel them, and as happens in incursions like this, they expelled more than them, they oppressed more than them, they killed more than them. And Filipinos, both legal and illegal, both those who had migrated there recently or had lived there most of their lives, ended up fleeing back to a country they barely acknowledged (which was why they left in the first place) and barely recognized, having left too young to even know about it.

And you blame government for this?

The head of the pin upon which all this rests, the iota of justification upon which all this lies, is that the Sultanate of Sulu owns Sabah, the Kirams own Sabah. You will find in all the articles and tracts that defend this inanity mention of how the British North Borneo Company and ultimately the British government itself conspired to steal Sabah from them. You will not find in them a single, solitary, teeny-weeny mention of the Sabah people themselves. Specifically, you will not find in them mention of the fact that the Sabah people struggled to be free, gained self-rule in 1963, and voted to become part of Malaysia. You will not find in them mention of the fact that the Sabah people are so fiercely proud and independent they insist to this day that they did not join the Malaysian Federation, they helped create the Malaysian Federation along with other states.

How in the face of this can Sabah belong to the Kirams? How in the face of this can the Sabah people be subjects of the Sultan of Sulu?

What is that but saying the Sabah people do not matter? What is that but saying the Sabah people do not exist? Hell, what is that but saying the wishes of the Sabah people are irrelevant, the history of the Sabah people for the last hundred years is irrelevant, the right of the Sabah people to decide their own fate and destiny is irrelevant? Basta lang, they are royal subjects of the Sultan of Sulu?

When in fact the Sabah people are not just the most relevant thing in this equation, they are the most pivotal element in this equation, the most central variable in this equation, the most decisive factor in this equation. When in fact what the Sabah people want is the be-all and end-all of this equation. Certainly what they do not want is the Kirams, what they do not want is to become subjects of the Sultanate of Sulu, what they do not want is anyone screwing their freedom.

You want to blame anyone, blame the Kirams. Frankly, I don’t know why they haven’t been arrested yet for sparking all this violence, for precipitating all this atrocity, for causing all these deaths. And not quite incidentally for embarrassing us in the eyes of the world, for shaming us in the eyes of the world—with no small help from the batty voices that say the Kirams have a right to subjugate the Sabahans, government is wrong not to support their idiotic quest. At the very time when we are climbing out of a decade of rut and rot and restoring luster and pride to being Filipino. What the Kirams have done is not pro-Filipino, it is anti-Filipino. Arresting them is not anti-Filipino, it is pro-Filipino. Punishing them is not being pro-Malaysia, it is pro-Filipino. Hell, it is pro-sanity.

Get real, people.

Sam Miguel
03-21-2013, 09:24 AM
8 Filipinos face death, life terms in Malaysia

Terrorism charges filed under KL laws

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:04 am | Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Malaysia brought criminal charges against eight Filipinos on Wednesday, more than two weeks after a standoff in Sabah between Malaysian security forces and an armed group from the sultanate of Sulu erupted into violence that killed 72 people.

More than 100 others face similar charges.

It was not clear whether the eight were the first of the captured followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III who, together with more than 200 others, slipped into Sabah on Feb. 9 and seized the coastal village of Tanduo in Lahad Datu town to stake their clan’s ancestral claim to the eastern Malaysian territory.

The eight men, whose ages ranged from 17 to 66, did not enter a plea, and no further hearing dates were immediately scheduled as the case was being transferred from a Sabah district court to a higher court, according to the state-run Bernama news agency.

Abraham Idjirani, spokesman for the sultanate of Sulu, condemned the filing of terrorism charges against the eight Filipinos, saying Malaysian prosecutors have not fully disclosed the evidence used in the complaints against the suspect.

Idjirani said he feared the rights of the eight men were being violated and that there was a lack of transparency in the handling of their cases.

“In the first place, these Filipinos, if indeed they were involved, were just defending their rights because Sabah belongs to the sultanate and the Filipino people and Malaysia is just the administrator,” Idjirani said.

Idjirani urged the Malaysian authorities to release the suspects and called on the administration of President Aquino to provide them with legal assistance.

Earlier Malaysian Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail asked the Bar Council of Malaysia and the Sabah Law Association to provide legal representation for detained followers of the Sulu sultan.

Christopher Leong, vice president of the bar council, said Wednesday his group would talk to Abdul Gani about giving legal assistance to the detainees.

Police filed charges of launching terroristic acts under Section 130A of the Penal Code and waging war against Malaysian King Abdul Halim under Section 121 of the code against the eight men in a makeshift courtroom in Lahad Datu.

Section 130A provides for a jail term of up to 30 years, while Section 121 provides for the death penalty on conviction.

Twelve members of the armed group led by Jamalul’s brother, Agbimuddin Kiram, were killed and 10 others were captured when Malaysian police launched an assault on Tanduo on March 1, after a 17-day standoff.

The assault ended in a rout for Agbimuddin’s group, which led to the spread of violence to other parts of Lahad Datu, triggering evacuations of entire villages to avoid casualties among the civilian population.

Fifty other men from Agbimuddin’s group were killed in skirmishes with Malaysian police and military troops in three other villages in Lahad Datu where the sultanate’s followers spread out after the rout in Tanduo.

Eight Malaysian policemen and two soldiers were killed in fighting between the security forces and small units from Agbimuddin’s group.

Others facing charges

Malaysian police arrested 107 people in other villages in a crackdown on Jamalul’s supporters in Sabah.

Those arrested include suspected members of Agbimuddin’s group, uniformed personnel and villagers who might have directly or indirectly abetted the Sulu group.

Police said the 107 people were arrested in Lahad Datu, Semporna, Kunak, Sandakan and other parts of the state.

Sabah Police Commissioner Hamza Taib said on Wednesday the suspects were being investigated for various offenses, including possession of offensive weapons, suspicious personal documents and illegal entry.

Hamza said the suspects were arrested under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act of 2011 but would be charged under the Penal Code.

Fighting continues

Skirmishes between Malaysian troops and about 50 men from Agbimuddin’s group were reported in Tanjung Batu on Wednesday as the military cleared the area of the Sulu sultan’s followers.

There were no immediate reports of casualties on either side.

The fate of Agbimuddin remained uncertain Wednesday despite reports that he managed to slip out of Sabah after the March 1 rout of his group.

Malaysian military chief Zulkifeli Zin said on Friday that Agbimuddin had fled to southern Philippines and most likely hiding in Tawi-Tawi.

His family in Manila insists Agbimuddin is still in Sabah and that reports that he has abandoned the sultan’s followers there as propaganda of the Malaysian government.

Agbimuddin will be arrested if he returns to the Philippines. Thirty-eight members of his group who slipped out of Sabah were intercepted by the Philippine Navy off Tawi-Tawi last week and were charged in court there.

“Our police and Navy are on the lookout for him,” Tawi-Tawi Gov. Sadikul Sahari was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper of Malaysia about reports that Agbimuddin was in hiding in the south.

The Malaysian and Philippine governments had sought for weeks to end the occupation of Tanduo peacefully by urging Agbimuddin’s group to leave without facing charges.

But the killing of two Malaysian policemen by Agbimuddin’s men on March 1 sparked the police assault that dislodged them from Tanduo.

The recovery of the beheaded bodies of two other Malaysian policemen in Semporna on March 2 drew air strikes and artillery attacks from the military.

Clearing operations

The operations continued Wednesday, with armored personnel carriers (APCs) entering Tanjung Batu to clear the village of Agbimuddin’s men.

Hamza explained that APCs had better mobility compared with military tanks and could have better access to rugged areas within the zone of security operations.

“We are better equipped now and we expect to complete clearing the Tanjung Batu area in the next 24 hours,” Hamza said.—Reports from Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao; AP and The Star/Asia News Network

Joescoundrel
03-23-2013, 08:35 AM
Sulu sultan disowns 8 accused in Malaysia

But Sabah law group says they’re Filipinos

By Dona Pazzibugan, Nikko Dizon

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:00 am | Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Are the eight men charged in Malaysia for the intrusion by followers of the sultan of Sulu into Sabah Filipinos or Malaysians?

After condemning on Thursday the filing of charges against the eight as “terroristic,” the Sulu sultanate on Friday disowned the suspects, saying they were not Filipinos but Malaysians.

Abraham Idjirani, spokesman for the sultanate, said the sultanate learned about the “fall guys” from a source in Sabah.

At least one of the eight arraigned at the Tawau High Court on Thursday admitted during the proceedings that he was paid to join the group from Sulu.

The Star newspaper of Malaysia identified the suspect as Holland (spelled “Holan” by Idjirani) Kalbi.

Speaking in court through a Badjao interpreter, Kalbi said he was asked by “someone” to join the group, but did not identify who it was. He also did not say how much he was paid to go with Agbimuddin’s group.

“I was just being foolish,” The Star quoted Kalbi as saying in court.

But Gani said Kalbi’s statement should not be recorded.

The judge reminded Kalbi not to say anything until he has a lawyer.

The SLA is providing legal representation to the eight accused.

Idjirani said Kalbi was one of Jamalul’s followers who were killed in the March 1 “massacre” in Tanduo village in Lahad Datu town.

Idjirani was referring to the police assault on Agbimuddin’s group in which 18, not 10, of Jamalul’s followers were killed.

Idjirani apologized for the earlier body count, which proved to be wrong, he said, because full information was not available at the time.

‘They are Filipinos’

But Syarulnizam Salleh, chair of the human rights subcommittee of the Sabah Lawyers Association (SLA), told the Inquirer by phone on Friday that the eight men charged with launching terroristic acts and waging war against Malaysian King Abdul Halim were Filipinos.

Salleh said he learned about the nationality of the eight men during his meeting with Malaysian Attorney General Gani Patail on Thursday night.

The SLA, however, said in a posting on its website that Malaysian authorities had arrested not only Filipinos but also Malaysians in the security operations to end the intrusion by followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.

The Malaysian authorities have arrested 108 people suspected of links to the Sulu group led by Jamalul’s brother, Agbimuddin Kiram.

But they’re dead

Idjirani reiterated that Kalbi was one of the 18 “martyrs” of Tanduo.

“Now he is one of the eight accused. So what’s this?” Idjirani asked.

Another alleged follower of the Sulu sultanate charged on Wednesday and arraigned on Thursday was identified as Lin Mad Salleh.

But Idjirani said “Ling Mad Salli” (his own spelling) was also one of the 18 Tanduo “martyrs.”

“Have the Malaysians resurrected the two RSF men?” Idjirani asked, using the shorthand for the “Royal Security Forces” of the Sulu sultanate.

“Our basis for saying that they are not Filipinos is that our source from Sabah called us to say they are Malaysians. They are not Filipinos,” Idjirani said.

“To confirm this, they (Malaysian authorities) should divulge where they were caught. If they were caught outside Lahad Datu, they were [Malaysian] civilians,” he said.

“They were set up to make Filipinos afraid, because Malaysian security forces have become abusive because of their internal security act,” he added.

The accused

The eight alleged followers of Sultan Jamalul faced Judge P. Ravinthran of the Tawau High Court on Thursday to be arraigned of the charges brought by the Malaysian authorities against them the day before.

Kalbi, Salleh, Habil Suhaili and Timhar Hadir are accused of launching acts of terrorism in Sabah. They face life imprisonment on conviction.

Atik Hussein Abu Bakar and Basad H. Manuel are also accused of terrorism as well as waging war against the Malaysian king. If convicted, they will be sentenced to death.

Kadir Uyung and Lating Tiong are accused of harboring a terrorist group, and face life imprisonment. They were arrested on that charge in Tanjung Labian on March 4, a day before the Malaysian military launched air and ground operations to crush Agbimuddin’s group.

No plea was entered for the eight accused following an application by Attorney General Gani, who led the team of prosecutors.

The charges are nonbailable.

Gani told the court that though only two of the accused faced charges that carried the death penalty, the prosecution would see to it that all eight would have legal representation in the interest of human rights.

He said he had discussed legal representation for the accused with the SLA and the Bar Council of Malaysia.

Salleh of the SLA confirmed earlier information received by the Inquirer that some of the accused were placed in straitjackets.

Straitjackets for security

Gani applied to the court for the procedure and Justice Ravinthran granted his application “for security reasons,” according to a copy of the court proceedings obtained by the Inquirer.

Ravinthran subsequently ordered the trial of the eight accused to start on April 12.

Gani said some of the accused would be jointly tried while individual hearings would be held for others, as they were arrested at different places or time.

Of the eight accused, one is under 19 years old. Some are Badjao and others are Orang Suluk or Tausug.

In a statement issued Friday, the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said it welcomed Gani’s assurance that the eight Filipinos would be given legal assistance.

The embassy and Salleh of the SLA said they were coordinating with each other for legal representation for the accused.

Mopping up operations

Mopping up operations continued in Lahad Datu Friday to clear the villages of Agbimuddin’s men.

Malaysian authorities said 68 members of Agbimuddin’s group had been killed in fighting since March 1.

But Idjirani said that by the sultanate’s reckoning, only 26 of the 235 members of Agbimuddin’s group had been killed. Four were wounded and 10 were arrested, he said.

Idjirani identified the 10 he earlier reported as killed in Tanduo as Kalbi, Salli, Ibrahim Suhudah, Junaidi Harain, Adulkader Jumaadil, Hawadi Jumaadil, Tar Undang, Sangkahan Ajan, and Datu and Mrs. Maharajah Sabandal.

He did not identify the eight others whose deaths in the police assault the sultanate learned about only later.

Other losses

In addition to the 18 killed in Tanduo on March 1, Idjirani said four were killed during the air and artillery attacks on March 5, and two others were killed later because they shielded Agbimuddin from soldiers’ fire.

Idjirani said 36 other sultanate followers were detained at the Philippine Naval Station in Tawi-Tawi after being intercepted at sea while trying to return to the Philippines and charged in a local court two weeks ago.

Of the group that sailed to Lahad Datu on Feb. 9, only Agbimuddin and 161 followers of the sultanate remain, Idjirani said.—With a report from The Star/Asia News Network

Joescoundrel
03-24-2013, 09:28 AM
National interest

By Artemio V. Panganiban

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:51 pm | Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Why did the United Kingdom so easily cede its sovereignty over Sabah to Malaysia in 1963 despite knowing that its rights over the territory arose merely from the lease granted by the Sultan of Sulu to the British North Borneo Company? Why did it ignore the Philippine claim and voluntarily relinquish its sovereignty over Sabah to the new emerging state of Malaysia?

Contrasting actions. In contrast, why did the United Kingdom, then headed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, consistently refuse, as it still continues to refuse, to surrender its sovereignty over the faraway Falklands to Argentina, to the extent of waging war with that impoverished country in 1982? And at present, why does it risk another war with Argentina over these islands? The Falklands lies 13,000 kilometers from the United Kingdom but only 1,500 kilometers from Argentina.

Why did the United Kingdom, also then headed by Prime Minister Thatcher, willingly cede its sovereignty over Hong Kong, Kowloon and the surrounding islands to the People’s Republic of China upon the expiration of its lease over the New Territories in 1997? It announced such surrender in 1982, 15 years ahead of schedule, causing the collapse of the stock market and real estate prices in its erstwhile Crown Colony (only to bounce back after the Chinese took over).

Yet, only the 99-year lease of the New Territories was due to expire in 1997, not that of Hong Kong, Kowloon and the surrounding islands, which were ceded “in perpetuity” to the United Kingdom by China. And yet, the United Kingdom returned not just the New Territories but also Hong Kong, Kowloon and the surrounding islands.

Veiled in legalities. The short answer to all these seemingly bewildering questions is national interest. The UK leaders believe that it was in their national interest to cede Sabah to Malaysia (not to the Philippines), surrender all of Hong Kong (not just the New Territories) to China, and deny the Falklands to Argentina.

As has been said so often, “We have no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests.” This is true in politics as it is in international relations.

National interest was on the mind of Tunku Abdul Rahman when in 1965 he voluntarily cut off Singapore from the two-year-old Federation of Malaysia to become an independent state, to the utter surprise of a tearful Lee Kuan Yew, who aspired only for better treatment, not separation, for the Chinese-dominated island of Singapore from the Malay-controlled Malaysian Federation.

National interest was also what former US Ambassador to the United Nations Warren Austin invoked when he boasted, “I should regard it as highly improper for me to admit that any country on earth can question the sovereignty of the United States of America in the exercise of that high political act of recognition of the de facto status of a state. Moreover, I would not admit here, by implication or direct answer, that there exists a tribunal of justice or of any other kind, anywhere, that can pass upon the legality or validity of that act of my country.”

Of course, not all nations can boast as much, and as often, as the great powers of the world, which can back up their bravado with their military arsenals. On the other hand, less endowed nations depend on the rule of law and reason, and invoke the intervention of international and regional tribunals.

No wonder Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario never tires of asserting “right is might” in his search for solutions to our international problems, especially with China and Malaysia. Indeed, being weak and deprived, the Philippines must depend on the rule of law, even if it is ever mindful of what Cicero said long ago: “When arms speak, laws are silent.” Our country always vies for peaceful solutions because when peace reigns, laws begin to speak.

Philippine interest. At bottom, where does the national interest of the Philippines lie in the Sabah dispute? Is it in forcibly taking over Sabah even at the risk of war with Malaysia, as the Sultanate of Sulu wants? Or is it in patiently invoking its claims via only the peaceful methods allowed by its Constitution and the United Nations Charter?

Is it really in the national interest of the Philippines to rule over 2.5 million Sabahans, even without their consent, provided the means to acquire such rule is peaceful, as in winning in the International Court of Justice? Is it not more prudent to first ask the Sabahans whether they want to be under the Philippines or Malaysia, or to be independent?

Is it in the national interest of the Philippines to take over Sabah, given that its people are apart culturally, historically, socially and politically from the majority of Filipinos? Is it not better to let go and let be, as the Tunku did to Singapore in 1965?

If the Philippines acquires sovereignty over Sabah, should it be treated an integral part of our national territory? Or should it be a colony? Or should it be autonomous, like the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the desideratum of Nur Misuari and the Moro National Liberation Front? Or should it be another Bangsamoro, the aspiration of Murad Ibrahim and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front?

These are some of the hard questions that must be answered before we plunge any deeper into the Sabah dispute. As for the Sultan of Sulu, he and his followers have many choices, too. They can always press their ownership claims to whoever has sovereignty over Sabah, whether it be the Philippines, Malaysia, or an independent Sabah.

* * *

Joescoundrel
03-24-2013, 09:42 AM
Sultanate now singing a different tune – Palace

By Aurea Calica

(The Philippine Star) | Updated March 24, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his followers were “singing a different tune” when they disowned the eight men charged in Malaysian courts with terrorism-related crimes over the Sabah violence, Malacañang said yesterday.

“I think they have to solidify... they have to clarify their position because the other day, that particular side had condemned the filing of charges against these eight people, and they had expressed their concern that the offense might carry the death penalty, etcetera,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over radio dzRB yesterday.

“Today, they are singing a different tune, that they are not Filipinos but actually Malaysians. So we don’t know what necessitated the change in their position,” Valte said.

The denial of the Kirams came after one of the accused told a Malaysian judge that he had been paid to join the sultanate’s forces in Lahad Datu in Sabah.

Valte said reports reaching the Department of Foreign Affairs indicated the eight were Filipino nationals.

“We have not heard any contrary reports from our side. So we will proceed on that initial report, and we will proceed to provide the assistance,” Valte said.

She said Philippine officials are now allowed consular access to the eight and “we will be taking the necessary steps to extend the assistance that is needed.”

On Thursday, President Aquino assured the eight accused of legal assistance, saying they are Filipino citizens after all.

Aquino said the DFA and the Department of Justice were closely monitoring their cases.

Information about the crisis in Sabah has been sparse, with Philippine media reportedly being prevented from getting near the action as Malaysian security forces continue to hunt Kirams’ armed followers.

Some 200 followers of the sultanate – many armed – crossed over to Sabah early February to stake their claim on the territory. The violence that followed Malaysia’s campaign to evict them had triggered a bigger exodus of Filipinos leaving the territory for Mindanao where prospects of job and livelihood are bleak.

More than 4,000 Filipinos have left Sabah since the start of Malaysia’s crackdown on March 5, officials said. The number is expected to swell as hundreds more have remained undocumented.

Proof needed

Insisting that the eight accused were not Filipinos, sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani said Malaysia should reveal where its forces had captured the men, or at least show photos of the detainees to the media as proof.

“We admit that the 10 earlier reported as captured were RSF (royal security force) members as they were captured in Tanjung Batu and Lahad Datu. We need to know where the eight who are now facing charges for terrorism were captured. The RSF has remained in Lahad Datu,” Idjirani said.

“The Malaysian government, at the least, should provide Philippine media agencies with photos of the eight arrested men so we could really verify if they are indeed RSF fighters,” he added.

On Friday, Idjirani denied the eight men were Filipinos and revealed that one of them – identified in the Malaysia media as Hooland Kalibi – had even assumed the identity of a sultanate fighter killed last March 1 by Malaysian forces. The man had also claimed having been paid to join the sultanate’s forces in Sabah.

Idjirani said “a relative of the wife” of the leader of the sultanate’s armed followers in Sulu, Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of the sultan, provided the information.

“They (Malaysians) are lying through their teeth. They are fooling the Philippine government and the entire world,” he said last Friday. “Malaysia will continue to lie so that the sultanate will not get any support from President Aquino, from our own government. Malaysia is fooling the world.”

The eight men were charged with “waging war” against the royalty and with terrorism. Two of the accused face the death penalty.

Idjirani said more than a hundred Filipinos in Sabah have been arrested under Malaysia’s Security Offences (Special Measures) Act of 2012 for allegedly supporting the “royal sultanate force” which entered Sabah on Feb. 12. More than 200 others face charges for immigration offenses.

Idjirani also said Agbimuddin is still in Sabah with 161 armed followers contrary to claims by Malaysian authorities that he had left the territory and is now in hiding in Mindanao.

“The Raja Muda is still in Sabah but his force has spilt up into smaller groups and are now engaged in guerrilla warfare,” he said.

Idjirani also said they are reviving a complaint against Malaysia before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the country’s “usurping the Sulu Sultan’s power and authority” over Sabah. The sultanate, he said, is also seeking $35 billion claim from Malaysia for the latter’s “exploiting” the resources of Sabah from 1963 to 2005.

But Idjirani admitted pursuing the ICJ case is an uphill battle considering the absence of an endorsement from the Philippine government.

“As a private entity, we cannot push for it. We need an endorsement from a sovereign government. We can enlist the endorsement of any country for this, but the Sultan of Sulu prefers to get the endorsement from the Philippine government,” he said.

Not only Filipinos

Even Indonesians in Sabah were reportedly reeling from Malaysia’s crackdown on the sultanate’s followers.

“They are also targeting the Indonesians. Quite a number of Filipinos and Indonesians have been rounded up and subjected to questioning by the Malaysian police,” a Filipino working for a private firm in Sabah said.

He also said Tausugs from Sulu still appeared to be the principal target of the crackdown.

On Friday, 36 more refugees mostly children, landed on Taganak Island from Sandakan.

“Thirty-six new evacuees arrived (Friday) aboard several small boats from Sandakan,” said Tawi-Tawi police provincial director Senior Superintendent Joselito Salido.

One evacuee said he and his family had to pay 500 ringgits each to a boat operator.

“Many are in hiding in Sandakan while waiting for boats that will take them to Taganak,” 31-year-old refugee Basil Aliauddin said.

In Basilan, the provincial government has set up a reception area at the compound of the Lamitan District Hospital, a 40-minute ride from the capital city.

“When the Malaysian police operasi or crackdown begins in Sabah on Monday, we anticipate more returnees,” a Lamitan-based military medic said.

He said the provincial government decided to establish a reception center at the hospital compound so that those needing medical attention would be promptly attended to.

In Sulu, reception centers have been put up at smaller ports in anticipation of the influx of more refugees.

In Tawi-Tawi, a tent city has emerged at the compound of the provincial office of the Department of Public Works and Highways.

At least 34 Philippine Navy ships patrolling the Sulu Sea are on alert for refugees as well as gunmen wishing to sail to Sabah to reinforce the sultanate’s followers.

Meanwhile in Legazpi City, Team PNoy senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros said the next Senate should vigorously help in resolving the Sabah issue once and for all.

“In the context of this complex issue, the present administration is addressing this issue seriously with the 16th Senate as a partner which is the treaty-making body of our country,” she said.

“If we remember, 45 years ago (was) the Jabidah Massacre, and now we are in the midst of a very difficult situation like the unresolved Sabah issue,” she told a press conference at the Albay Astrodome Friday afternoon.

Another Team PNoy senatorial candidate, Ramon Magsaysay Jr. said, “It is necessary to achieve a ceasefire so Malaysia and the Philippines can address diplomatic issue peacefully.” – With Mike Frialde, Jaime Laude, Celso Amo

Sam Miguel
03-25-2013, 10:15 AM
Heart of terror

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4:50 am | Monday, March 25th, 2013

The Philippine government, says Abraham Idjirani, should rail against Malaysia’s act of haling eight of his boss Jamalul Kiram’s followers to court for terrorism and muster all its resources to come to their aid. At least that’s what he said earlier. His boss would later disown the accused—not unlike Simon before he became Peter—saying they were not his men. In fact, they were not Filipinos but Malaysians.

“We condemn this terroristic act of Malaysia,” Idjirani said at first. “In the first place, these (accused) Filipinos, if indeed they were involved, were just defending their rights…. Sabah belongs to the sultanate and the Filipino people and Malaysia is just the administrator. They are only occupants…. We are concerned that eight fellow Filipinos are now being accused of an offense that carries a penalty of death. That’s illegal. It is usurpation of powers of the Sultan of Sulu.”

They will, said Idjirani, go all the way to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to assert this.

I agree completely, government should do everything in its power to stay the hand of death hovering above the heads of the eight. Which it has already set about doing, on the assumption that they are Filipinos. But without condemning Malaysia’s response to the perpetrators, without threatening various acts of reprisal, if not war, over it. Rising only to protest Malaysia’s arguable excess, or plain savagery, in putting down the incursion, a campaign that has extended to pretty much every Filipino in Sabah. Indeed, a campaign that has unleashed Malaysia’s latent prejudice, if not downright hostility, against Filipinos in the rest of that country.

I agree completely, government should move heaven and earth to save the souls, preferably while still tethered to their bodies, of the accused in Sabah. But only in the same way that government moved heaven and earth to save the Filipino drug mules in China from being hanged. Jojo Binay, the second highest official of this country, was himself dispatched to the Middle Kingdom to plead for their lives. It did not help of course, the mules were executed anyway. But the effort was there. You cannot of course condemn or threaten war against a country that takes drug-pushing literally deathly seriously. Neither can you condemn or threaten war against a country that takes invasion equally literally deathly seriously.

Idjirani of course says they weren’t attempting to seize Sabah, they were attempting to reclaim it: Sabah belongs to them. Well, repeating it till kingdom come won’t make it so. Saying it till hell freezes over won’t make hell freeze over. That is precisely the point that needs to be proven. Even Jovito Salonga’s 1962 statement asserting the Philippines’ claim to Sabah, which defenders of Kiram’s horrendous misadventure keep quoting, was clear on the point: That claim had to be proven by law and diplomacy. Not by outright seizure. Not by brazen occupation. Not by Jabidah, not by this raid.

In fact, there’s no small irony in the Kirams wanting to bring Malaysia’s apparent oppression of their followers to the ICJ on the ground that they were just “defending their rights,” Sabah being theirs. The ICJ ruled on that premise ages ago: Sabah does not belong to anyone except the people of Sabah. And the people of Sabah, after declaring themselves independent, joined Malaysia in 1963—quite freely, as determined first by a British commission and, after that was rejected by the Philippines and Indonesia, then by a UN Mission composed of Argentina, Brazil, Ceylon, Czechoslovakia, Ghana, Pakistan, Japan and Jordan.

The ICJ ruled on that point at that point: “Historic title, no matter how persuasively claimed on the basis of old legal instruments and exercises of authority, cannot… prevail in law over the rights of non-self-governing people to claim independence and establish their sovereignty through the exercise of bona fide self-determination.”

Same question: What the hell are you telling the people of Sabah by insisting that Sabah belongs to the Sultan of Sulu, that they have no business claiming independence, sovereignty or self-determination because they are, and will always be, subjects of a character straight from the Arabian Nights?

But what takes the cake is Idjirani, and the Kirams, suddenly discovering that their followers who roistered this mess in Sabah, leaving the real Filipinos there who were quietly going about their business before the Kirams and their followers did what they did to reap the whirlwind, are Filipinos too and are entitled to their government’s support and help. What takes the cake is their attempting to conscript this country into remonstrating or condemning everyone except themselves for the horror they themselves have unleashed.

What, they’re Filipinos too but they’d rather not inform us about, or ask our permission for, the batty thing they were about to embark on? Or if not us as a whole at least government, which is the official representative of the rest of us, in whose name they now claim to have done what they did? They’re Filipinos too, but they couldn’t care less what happens to their countrymen in Sabah and other parts of Malaysia, many of whom do not have papers, whom they’ve just subjected to a reign of terror by what they’ve done? They’re Filipinos too but they don’t particularly mind exposing the country to the scorn of the world—“bizarre” is how the Kirams’ incursion into Sabah is universally called—reinforced by some groups and individuals calling on the country to unite behind them?

You want to see terrorism, you don’t have to look far, you don’t have to look deep. Just look at the people who wreaked this, just look at what they’ve wrought.

That is the heart of terror.

Sam Miguel
04-01-2013, 10:42 AM
Sultan’s army gets reinforcements in Sabah

By Perseus Echeminada, Helen Flores

(The Philippine Star) | Updated April 1, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Some 100 heavily armed men have joined the followers of Agbimuddin Kiram in Sabah to continue fighting Malaysian forces in Lahad Datu, sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani said yesterday.

Idjirani said Agbimuddin, brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III called him up to report that some heavily armed civilians have joined the fighting in Sabah.

Idjirani said the civilians managed to slip through the sea blockade of the Malaysian and Philippine navy forces in going to Sabah.

“(Agbimuddin) called me about the arrival of civilians with arms who have joined the royal security forces,” Idjirani said.

It was not known where the armed civilians came from but sources said some are Tausugs from various parts of Mindanao who arrived in small groups to avoid the Malaysian and Philippine naval blockade at the Sulu Sea.

Heavy fighting was reported in Lahad Datu yesterday where Malaysian troops are conducting mopping-up operations to flush out the remaining members of Kiram’s forces.

Idjirani also reported that relatives of Kiram who are long-time residents of Sabah went into hiding after Malaysian police began its crackdown on suspected supporters of the sultan’s army.

“The relatives of sultan are now living in fear and have gone into hiding,” he said.

DFA visits 8 accused of terrorism

Last Thursday, Philippine embassy officials in Kuala Lumpur were allowed to visit eight men facing charges for terrorism-related violence for their involvement in the Sabah incident.

Philippine Ambassador to Kuala Lumpur Eduardo Malaya, in a statement, identified the eight as Atik Hussin Bin Abu Bakar, Basad H. Manuel, Habil Bin Suhali, Holland Bin Kalbi, Thimhar Hadil Sultan, Lin Bin Mad Salleh, Kadir Bin Uyung and Lating Bin Tiong.

Malaya did not say if the eight, detained at the prison facility in Tawau, are Filipinos. The Sulu sultanate had earlier said the eight are Malaysians.

He said it is the “standing policy” of the government “to provide appropriate consular assistance to nationals in distress, whether or not we agree with their acts or advocacies... We would like to ensure that their rights as accused are respected and that they have legal representation when court sessions resume on April 12 as promised by Malaysia authorities.”

Malaya said the embassy team, led by First Secretary and Consul Antonina Mendoza-Oblena and director Renato Villa, talked to the eight and asked them about their prison conditions. The team also asked the accused about their places of origin and respective families.

The eight were the first to face charges since about 200 followers of the Sulu sultan assembled at the coastal town of Lahad Datu last month to press ownership over Sabah.

The embassy said it may be difficult to extend consular assistance to the sultan’s brother Agbimuddin. Malaysian Defense Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi said Agbimuddin is a Malaysian citizen who worked as a civil servant in Sabah.

Sam Miguel
04-02-2013, 01:56 PM
The lies that bind us

By Noralyn Mustafa

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:32 pm | Sunday, March 31st, 2013

At the height of the running gunbattle between the Malaysian forces and the so-called “Royal Army” (which in a few days became the “Royal Security Forces,” but which Malaysia labeled simply as “the intruders”), there was one, among the dispatches we received from our ground sources, that I thought struck at the very core of the senselessness of it all. “Both sides are lying, their statements in their press conferences are mostly lies,” the messenger sounded quite exasperated. He was referring to Jamalul Kiram III and his spokespersons, and to the Malaysian officials.

And now even the Inquirer, which is the country’s No. 1 broadsheet mainly because of its credibility, has been condemned by Malaysia as a “liar,” at the same time casting doubt on the rest of “Philippine media” as equally irresponsible. This appears to be part of the propaganda thrust of “Operation Daulat,” the code name of the massive ground and air offensive against Agbimuddin Kiram, younger brother of Jamalul, and the over 200 mostly armed men who landed in Sabah last February, ostensibly to settle in what they claimed was land that belonged to them, the Kiram royal family.

That story has been torn to shreds many times over and, if there was anyone who believed it, it was only the Philippine media who, in good faith, never suspected they were being taken for a ride on a slow boat to North Borneo.

The bad news is, the Malaysian officials knew what it was all about from the beginning, or as soon as they knew who were behind it. They only had to look up their police and military records for confirmation. And so “Operation Daulat.”

As of this writing, over 5,000 refugees have been reported by local authorities to have fled Sabah because of the fighting and what has been termed a “crackdown” on Tausug there, regardless of whether they are long-time residents, legal or illegal. The village of Tanduao has been emptied of its mostly Tausug residents and will be permanently closed.

A humiliating twist in this story of forcible evacuation of residents is their having been robbed by the Kiram gunmen who looted their homes at gunpoint and carted away newly purchased appliances and other valuables. At this point, one wonders to what depths of ignominy the Tausug, the Bangsa Sug in general, the Sultanate of Sulu, and even the Republic of the Philippines to which Jamalul has declared his allegiance, will be dragged into by his infamous 200 who have now been reduced to the level of common criminals.

But of course all this, for which so many lives have been lost and so much destruction has been wrought, was, as it will come to light in due time, deliberately built on a framework of lies.

As it has always done so, from Caligula to Cromwell, the truth has a way of coming out in the end.

In the so-called Mindanao conflict that flared up in the 1970s, over 160,000 mostly civilian lives were lost. An undetermined number were killed by the military on mere suspicion of being sympathizers of the Moro National Liberation Front. The whole town of Jolo, which was the most devastated, almost disappeared from the face of the earth, and a whole community disappeared from it, never to return.

For over two decades now, Sulu has been the breeding ground of the Abu Sayyaf, which has made the province’s countryside a no-man’s land even for the Tausug themselves, in turn making “warlords” out of those who have to defend their power and their turf.

And it is only now that the Bangsa Sug are slowly realizing the painful and shameful truth that Malaysia had known all along: It was all because of Sabah, from the beginning.

But if they will try to go back in time, as some already have, they will discover that this “sorry scheme of things” is just a progression of self-destruction that began from the decline of the once powerful and once “glorious” sultanate. And yet the very unfortunate fact is, they have not learned their lesson.

Now that the prospect of reclaiming North Borneo is again on the horizon, the so-called heirs of the sultanate have materialized like ghosts from the Arabian Nights, drawing out their genealogies to validate their claims of legitimacy.

I have not overheard anybody talking about reestablishing the dormant sultanate (it has never died in the hearts of the Bangsa Sug) on the foundation that gave rise to it in the first place—Islamic governance which, contrary to colonial thinking, is workable in the 21st century.

In a reading of the turmoil that has resulted in the almost unstoppable carnage in some countries in the Middle East, it can be seen, even to the naked eye, that at the root of all this is the failure of their leaders to reconfigure Islamic governance in order to align it with a rapidly changing world, a change that has been accelerated in giant leaps by human knowledge and technology.

As it is with Islamic countries, so it was with the Sultanate of Sulu, which declined with the advent of Western colonization.

It is now up to the Bangsa Sug and their leaders, and in particular, those who claim royal lineage, to stop dreaming about reclaiming North Borneo. It belongs, and will always belong to the Sultanate of Sulu.

There is no question about that. But where is the Sultanate of Sulu? That is the question.

* * *

gameface_one
05-17-2015, 06:29 PM
PNoy: PH won't give up Sabah claim

by Aurea Calica, The Philippine Star
Posted at 05/17/2015 9:10 AM
MANILA - President Aquino has maintained the Philippines will not drop its claim over Sabah, but that there are factors to consider before making moves to press for it.

In a portion of a transcript of an interview by journalist Raissa Robles on the Sabah issue, the President said giving up Sabah would “open such a big can of worms in this country.”

He said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima did a study on the matter and “one of the biggest issues there is the right of self-determination which, I understand, is part of the United Nations Charter.”

“It’s supposed to trump everything, whether historical fact, et cetera. At the end of the day, people who are living there, if they are asked, will they say they want to join us or they want to join Malaysia? There was supposed to have been a vote done,” Aquino said.

The Philippines maintains a territorial claim over eastern Sabah (formerly known as North Borneo ) by saying the agreement signed in 1878 between the Sultan of Sulu and the North Borneo Chartered Co. was merely a lease and did not strip the country of its sovereignty over the area.

But Malaysia considers the Sabah dispute as a “non-issue” as it interprets the 1878 agreement as that of cession and deems that residents of Sabah had exercised their right to self-determination when they joined to form the Malayan Federation in 1963.

Aquino also said he would not open himself up to “such a juicy item for all of the media to pounce on.”

“To anybody who has entertained this idea that that was possible, that really smacks so much of your rationality,” he said.

Aquino said he would be able to decide what to do “after I’m presented with a very good case.”

“But it goes back to that enshrined right of self-determination. They will have to be asked where they want to go. And I am told that previously there had already been a plebiscite done, to which they said they wanted to join the Malayan Federation,” he said.

gameface_one
05-18-2015, 11:19 AM
Misuari denies negotiating with Malaysian execs on Sabah claim

MANILA – Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari denied having negotiated with Malaysian officials on the status of Sabah and Sarawak, saying the group is leaving the matter up to the Sultanate of Sulu and Malaysia to peacefully work things out over the disputed territories.

In a statement, Misuari dismissed as “unfounded and without any ounce of truth” some media reports that pointed to the MNLF as having negotiated with Malaysian authorities.

He added that he is “respecting the fervent wish of the late Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Kiram III to let alone the Islamic Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo (SSNB) to negotiate peacefully with the Muslim leaders of Malaysia to settle the controversial issue to avoid repeating the March 2013 standoff in Lahad Datu, Sabah.”

For Misuari, the North Borneo case is a non-issue to the MNLF as it is the home base of different tribal groupings of Muslims from different regions of Southeast Asia “that have enjoyed peaceful and harmonious co-existence with the Chinese and Christian populace.”

“The MNLF can only respect the peaceful status quo desired by the inhabitants of the region,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has invited Misuari, along with other leaders from Mindanao, to participate in the 42nd Council Ministers session in Kuwait on May 27 to 28.

Misuari, according to MNLF spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla, declined the invitation, citing travel restrictions imposed on him after he led a three-week siege in Zamboanga City in September 2013 that killed scores and displaced more than 200,000 residents.

The Zamboanga City Regional Trial Court has issued a warrant for Misuari’s arrest, which also prevented him from attending the OIC meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia last year.