Sulu sultan defies Aquino

‘Point of no return is nearing’


Withdraw now, or face the consequences.

President Aquino yesterday warned Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III he would face the “full force of the law”—possibly including arrest—unless he withdrew his armed followers from Sabah, Malaysia, but the sultan was defiant, saying his men were staying put in the disputed territory.

Amid the President’s warning, officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) met with Malaysian diplomats in Manila and simultaneously sent one of its senior officials to Kuala Lumpur to help end the crisis.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told the Inquirer Tuesday night that among those who could face arrest and charges were “principals by inducement and principals by direct participation.” She said the sultan could possibly be charged for being a principal by inducement.

At a press conference before flying to Cagayan de Oro City, where he was to campaign for the administration’s senatorial ticket, Aquino called on Sultan Kiram to order his followers in Sabah to come home, saying the situation was nearing “the point of no return.”

“We are fast approaching that point,” Aquino said, apparently referring to the 48-hour extended deadline imposed by Malaysian authorities for the group led by Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of the sultan, to leave the village of Tanduao village in Lahad Datu town.

The deadline was to expire at the last hour of Tuesday.

“This is a situation that can’t persist,” the President said. “This is the time to demonstrate that you are a true leader both in name and deed.”

Foolhardy act

Aquino stressed: “The right thing to do now would be to order your followers to return home as soon as possible… If you choose not to cooperate, the full force of the laws of the state will be used to achieve justice for all who have been put in harm’s way.”

Reminding the sultan that war had never been the Philippines’ policy in pressing its territorial claims, Aquino warned: “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.”

He added: “May I remind you as well that… you are bound by the Constitution and its laws. Among your possible violations is Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, which states that the Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy.”

The President drew the sultan’s attention to the Revised Penal Code, which punishes those who “provoke or give occasion for a war… or expose Filipino citizens to reprisals on their persons or property.”

“You are now fully aware of the consequences of your actions,” said the President.

Appeal rejected

The ailing Kiram sounded unmoved by the warning.

At a news briefing in his house in Taguig City, Kiram rejected the President’s appeal for him to immediately recall his men who have been occupying a part of Sabah for nearly three weeks.

“I have already given my order to them. And they have to stay put in that area,” Kiram said in a muffled voice.

He said his men would not go back home “until an arrangement has been done by our officials and the President, and if that will be arranged accordingly with a written agreement signed by the parties concerned.”

Kiram said that in the last conversation he had with Agbimuddin on Monday, his younger brother told him that he and their 235 followers were firm in their decision to stay despite a food blockade ordered by the Malaysian authorities.

Asked what actions Agbimuddin and his men might take if the deadline for them to leave Sabah expired, the Sulu sultan said: “I asked them to wait for orders from me or from my [other] brothers.”

Ready to be jailed

Kiram, who has been suffering from diabetes for years, said he was ready to go to jail if the government filed a case against him and members of his clan.

“It’s OK with me. I’m already 74 years old. An old man going to jail? It’s OK,” Kiram said. “I cannot understand what violation I made… I have always respected the Constitution. My brother went down there with his men and settled down in their own homeland. Is that a violation?”

Asked if he considered Aquino’s statement a threat, he said: “Maybe that’s a threat for us.”

In a statement read by his daughter, Princess Jacel Kiram, the sultan reiterated that Agbimuddin and his men “will not initiate the violence… But we are prepared to defend our lives and aspirations.” He said the Sabah issue “can be peacefully settled without threat, but in a diplomatic way.”

“Is it hard for Malaysia to sit down in a square table and to diplomatically settle the issue on the claim? All we ask is for Malaysia to sit down with the Kirams and come up with a win-win solution,” Kiram stressed.

Envoy to KL

Kiram insists he is the head of the Sulu sultanate, which once controlled parts of Borneo, including the site of the standoff. The sultanate leased the disputed area to Europeans in the 1870s.

While the sultanate’s authority gradually faded as Western colonial powers exerted their influence over the region, it continued to receive lease payments for Sabah, which became part of Malaysia in 1963.

Abraham Idjirani, the sultanate’s secretary general, said the decision of Kiram’s followers to hold their ground “is not a hardline stance.” Idjirani told reporters: “We welcome the statement of the President. It’s a development on the right track.”

Foreign  Undersecretary Jose Brillantes has flown to Kuala Lumpur to help resolve the situation.

“We see that there would be a need for more people who would be able to help out in the coordination work…  He’s there to help Ambassador (Eduardo Malaya) to help in coordinating the peaceful resolution of this issue,” said DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez.

“Being a senior diplomat and being a former ambassador in Malaysia, he will also have some contacts and he would be able to coordinate well with the Malaysian authorities to be able to achieve the objectives to bring the group back home,” Hernandez said.

A ship the Philippines plans to use to ferry Kiram’s supporters home remains on standby in Tawi-Tawi.

Emergency meeting

De Lima called an emergency meeting with the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation but declined to say anything except that she had given them specific assignments.

De Lima said the only directive Aquino gave them was for the PNP and NBI to “investigate, find out and determine violations of the law that the Kiram group have committed through their actions…. with the end view of filing charges if warranted.”

Asked if an arrest was in order after the sultan said his followers remained in Sabah, she said: “So be it if that is the case.” On whether the sultan and his followers would be arrested if they defied  the President, De Lima said: “There is always that possibility.”

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  • Matambaka


    Harris suggests RM200m formula

    Kota Kinabalu: Former Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh has proposed that the Malaysian Government permanently settle the long-standing issue raised by the Sultan of Sulu by way of a lump-sum compensation payment of RM200 million.
    “I appeal to the Federal Government to consider settling once and for all the issue of the claim and the yearly payment to the Sultan of Sulu,” he said in a statement, here, Wednesday.
    He said the suggested amount of RM200 million was merely equivalent to the monthly expenses for the armed forces to control Sabah’s coastline.
    Towards this end, Harris said he had written to Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Tun Hussein that RM50 million is to be allocated from the RM200 million direct to the Sulu Sultan’s descendants while the balance for the development of a Felda-style settlement scheme in Mindanao.
    “This will benefit both the heirs of the sultan as well as the people of Mindanao,” he said, adding that the Malaysian Government should deal directly with the Sultan of Sulu rather than talking to leaders of the intruders at Lahad Datu.
    He said any confrontation of arms would definitely cause casualties on both sides. “It can be expected that Malaysian security forces will come out with flying colours. But the scars will remain forever, just like other countries such as Northern Ireland, Spain and many others.
    “These unsatisfied issues will remain and crop up from time to time.
    Therefore, it is in our interest, in particular Sabah, to have friendly neighbours,” he said.
    Harris said Malaysia must acknowledge that no matter what, it was impossible to control every part or metre of Sabah over a 1,000km coastline right from Tawau to Kota Kinabalu.
    “Thus, it is important these issues be settled amicably once for all and be friends among the Malay stock countries.
    Everything will then be running smoothly in the Asean countries to move forward to become a developed Asia.
    China has already led the way.
    “The issue on who and who are Sabahans or for that matter Malaysian, does not arise anymore.
    All those citizenship with legally issued Identity Card are a fait accompli issue.
    “Surely it is not the intention to trace the original Sabahans, who are reportedly only the descendants of Murut and Rungus.
    The rest – the Malays, the Chinese, the Indians and others – were descendants of immigrants a few hundred years ago,” he said.
    People are free to go anywhere they like since it is expected that in the next 50 to 100 years from now there would be no more borders among the countries.
    Is this FAIR?

  • Edgardo Mendoza


    • AlzheimersC

      No its for the Moro Sultanate…I wonder how much will the Sultanate will share to the Philippine gov’t if the buy-out of Sabah takes place.

      • robert franklin

        the last sulu sultan did not leave a heir, so now there are 70 over claimants to the throne. one of them is sultan mohamad akjan ali muhammad who lives in kota kinabalu sabah. he is a hardworking man and wealthy, and he doesn’t do piracy and kidnapping like the scums of kiram and his pirates clan. once malaysia parliament passes a law to recognise him under its system of constitutional monarchy, sultan mohamad akjan ali muhammad will become the sultan of sabah. his first priority is to stake claim over tawi-tawi, mindanao and all the way to palawan supported by a new army sabah national guard with RM200 million ( Peso 2.5 billion) annual operative budget.

        to tausogs, under malaysia, they will change your life destiny.

      • AlzheimersC

        It is the sultanate of Sulu not Sultanate of Sabah that is claiming sovereignty!

        Are you nuts? If you’ll do that not only the Sultanate of Sulu will be your enemy nor the ARMM or the Bangsamoro but the entire Philippines…

  • asdafaa qwesda

    How dare Malaysia attack the Filipinos?!? They should do what the Philippine government does and allow a bunch of armed men to blackmail them of their land and dignity!

    To people complaining, other than allowing themselves to be blackmailed, Malaysia had no choice. This is why they are a stronger country. It is people like you that make the Philippines weak.

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