Palace unsure on rightful sultanate heir, about financier


Even President Aquino is unsure if Sultan Jamalul Kiram III is the rightful heir of the Sulu sultanate, whose dominion once encompassed the Sulu archipelago and North Borneo.

The President also doubted the sultan’s capability to finance an operation involving at least 235 followers who went to Sabah.

“We were given reports that they are not doing too well. And we are also told that there is quite a large amount of money involved in ferrying people on launches from Tawi-Tawi to Sabah,” he said.

Aquino asked: “Where did the funding come from? And who is funding them?”

“We are still collating evidence that this was not an action just on their part,” he added.

At a press conference in Malacañang, Aquino said the sultanate’s lineage appeared problematic since Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, whose reign ended in 1936, died without an heir.

He said he had ordered a study to establish the legal grounds for the claim of the sultanate over the oil-rich Malaysian state of Sabah. “It is quite an extensive study,” he said.

Sabah became part of Malaysia upon the formation of the Malaysian federation in 1963.

Amid the decades-old controversy hounding the royal house of Sulu, another question has cropped up: Was Jamalul’s order to send members of the sultanate’s royal army to Sabah valid?

The last sultan recognized by the Philippine government in 1974 was Ismael Kiram I. After his death, the government, along with other foreign states, declined to recognize the succeeding sultans even if they still commanded authority among the locals there, but in deference to their being royals, they were consulted on some issues hounding Sulu.

The sultanate drew public attention anew when Jamalul sent the “royal army” to Sabah on Feb. 12. However, questions, even those tossed by the foreign press, emerged over the validity of his order, as research showed that his reign as Sulu sultan supposedly ended in 1990.

In his stead, website sources cited by the foreign press—the Malaysian media included—pointed to his younger brother, Esmail Kiram II, as the reigning sultan. Even the website operated by the Sulu provincial government listed Ismael II as current sultan.

Crown prince

But Esmail told the Inquirer by phone on Tuesday that he was not the reigning sultan. He said his official title was “sultan bantilan (crown prince)” and Jamalul remains “Sulu ruler” and “ruler of Palawan and Sabah as well.”

“As far as the family is concerned, Jamalul is the reigning sultan,” he said.

Aided by a PowerPoint presentation, the President showed a slide containing the family tree of the Kiram clan that appeared to have suffered from a series of unfortunate events, triggering crises in royal succession because of the lack of a direct heir or death of the monarch.

“From Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, whose reign or term ended in 1936, I understand (that) he did not have any direct heirs,” Aquino said.

He cited research findings showing that Sultan Mawallil Wasit II, a younger brother of Kiram II, was the “next designated sultan who, unfortunately, died before he got crowned.” Jamalul III is a grand nephew of Sultan Mawallil Wasit (other translations use ‘Muwallil’).

The President did not mention Jamalul III’s father, but his deputy spokesperson, Abigail Valte, disclosed that the current sultan is the eldest son of the late Datu Rajah Muda Punjungan Kiram.

Lines of descendants

“So you have all of these lines of people who claim (to have descended from Jamalul II). You have all of these branches (competing) as to who should be the direct heir, or who should be rulers. And they have at least five people who are claiming to be the sultan of Sulu,” Aquino said.

“That is one of my first problems—who actually represents the sultanate of Sulu?” he asked.

Actually, the President said, two documents had yet to be studied. “So, it’s still a process that is still ongoing,” he said, referring to the agreements pertaining to the lease of Sabah to British North Borneo Co. by the sultanate in 1878.

During its heydays, the sultanate covered territory as far as North Borneo. Its warriors were feared for their swordsmanship. Brunei, which is also on Borneo Island, is ruled to this day by the Bolkiah clan, one of the Kiram clan’s relatives in the Malay Peninsula.

‘External forces’

Abraham Idjirani, the sultanate’s secretary general and spokesman, said the statements of Kiram’s cousin Fuad Kiram and nephew Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram questioning the legality of Kiram’s reign could be the handiwork of “external forces” out to torpedo the negotiations regarding the Sabah issue.

“They are misrepresenting themselves as (the sultan of Sulu). They are confusing the minds of the people, especially the non-Muslims,” Idjirani said in a press conference in Kiram’s home in Taguig City.

“They are instigated by external forces to create controversy and provide a strong basis for the Malaysian government to tell the heirs, ‘Before we negotiate with you, the heirs must unite first,’” he said.

Asked if the “external forces” included the Malaysian government, he said: “It’s not only the Malaysians, but above all it’s the Malaysian government.”

Esmail took a potshot at Malaysian authorities for declaring members of the royal army “foreign invaders.”

Lahad Datu was never foreign soil for the Tausug, he said, and Agbimuddin, his younger brother, has lived there since childhood.—With a report from Marlon Ramos

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  • joboni96

    the rightful sultan is not an issue here
    whoever may he be
    he supports the sultanate’s claim to sabah

    as to the financier, magkano ba kailangan mo
    to transport 300 people a short distance away

    we cannot blame pnoy
    force to good siya
    sa kapabayaan ni amboy ramos at zte aroyo

    1. walang depensa ang pilipinas
    2. dumepende sa malaysia
    instead of indonesia, sa peace talks

    at kapalpakan ng ‘twitter and ipad’ pnoy staff

    let us support the sultanate of sulu
    benefit from their lands in borneo

    stolen by the british

    1. malaysia to increase to $10 million per year rent
    to be used on both sides of the border

    2. bangsa moro to support the sultanate in sabah issue

    3. sovereignty issue to be set aside in the meantime
    in exchange for the commercial transaction in no. 1

    4. philippine government gives the sultanate
    the power to negotiate but
    concurrence power is reserved

    5. money in no.1 will be used for development of
    sultanate on both countries, and bangsa moro
    led and managed by the sultanate

    6. brunei as mediator

    7. dont let hegemonist intsik switik and
    u.s. imperialist take advantage of this

    • lansi

      Sir u are inviting all the heirs ( 60 now) to fight each other once they see your item no 1 of 10 million…..sure they will fight till death….

      • joboni96

        they just have to settle it among themselves
        if they are the proper leaders of their people

        sigurado iikot din yang pera
        sa mga tao sa lugar

  • Rudy Sentosa

    Just deport all those intruders back to where they belong. full stop. and RP pays all the cost incurred to the Malaysian side during the stand-off. 

  • Edgardo Mendoza


  • etomacq

    Aquino asked: “Where did the funding come from? And who is funding them?” 

    o-oh.. Name blaming again..

    Why not investigate who funded the MILF????? Who funded akbayan???? Who funded Manratrat???   

    Alam na alam ni Noynoy na walang kikilos kung walang pondo at financier, palibhasa gawain nya.. Pera pera lang ba Mr. President????

  • Rami

    National interest and the safety of working Pinoys should take precedence over Sultan Kiram and his followers demand. We are living in the real world not in monarch,if they want to claim Sabah as their property so be it,but please dragging the whole nation for regaining sultanate kingdom is too much to bear. Majority of Pinoys is working with their sweat and not living in fantasy. A lot of Pinoys are suffering in the aftermath of Pablo—the government has more pressing issues to deal with.. Live in the present and the future will take it course….

  • Simon Ybarramendia

    1. “We were given reports that they are not doing too well. And we are also told that there is quite a large amount of money involved in ferrying people on launches from Tawi-Tawi to Sabah,” he said.

    Aquino asked: “Where did the funding come from? And who is funding them?”

    Mr. President, if the sum is really big, how come undocumented Filipino workers in Sabah can afford to travel/shuttle back and forth between  Tawi-Tawi and Sabah (and even Sabah-Zamboanga)? In some cases, one can also do it for free. You don’t have to raise a lot of money for this.

    2. He said he had ordered a study to establish the legal grounds for the claim of the sultanate over the oil-rich Malaysian state of Sabah. “It is quite an extensive study,” he said. 

    Mr. President, the same study has been done in 1962. Have you and your team checked the result of that study? It was also expensive (involved searching and compiling documents from the Spanish Archives in Madrid, records of the North Borneo Chartered Company, etc.) but its findings became the reference documents for the debates in the Philippine Legislature between 1962-1964. Ask former Sen. Jovito Salonga and he might remember more than a thing or two about his “skirmishes” with Sumulong on the subject of the claim.

    3. At a press conference in Malacañang, Aquino said the sultanate’s lineage appeared problematic since Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, whose reign ended in 1936, died without an heir. 

    Mr. President, the successor to Jamalul Kiram II was finally resolved in 1962. There is a formal process of selection by the Sulu Sultanate’s Ruma Bechara (Royal Council). The recognition of the Council is one sure sign that separates the bogus claimants from the real one. It is the Council, not foreign governments (or even our government) who “names” the successor.

    It also seems that you are not getting good advice and information, Mr. President. For if you are (getting good advice and information), your public utterances–as now–would not make you appear completely clueless and misinformed. It is becoming increasingly clear that the person(s) beside you are only pretending to know that they know something about it and the socio-anthropological processes that govern the workings of the Sultanate. Maybe, they are just too afraid to admit it to you, but for the past few days, their blusters betray their lack of grasp of the issue and circumstances surrounding the issue (e.g., announcement that there is no such lease, go after their tax records, and now, that the succession is unclear).

    There are still statesmen and researchers who, in the past, have dealt with this issue way back in the early 60s. They are not that old. Hunt them down and find out what steps could be taken to settle the issue given the current state of affairs and realities on the ground. Some of the documents are still around. Ateneo has some in microfilm. 

    And please, stop casting the incident like it is some well-timed, conspiracy to sabotage the peace process or embarrass you. This is not about you or sabotaging the peace process. This is something that has been festering since 1888. It nurtured the MNLF and with it, its splinter group–MILF. Both groups can trace their common origin as secessionist organizations to this issue. This is something na minana ninyo. Deliberately kasing “pinabayaan.” But now, yours is the opportunity to settle it.

  • Bright

    the quality of a leader is mostly measured in external pressures.. 

  • Komen To

    Pumalpak na advisers? This is a sad day for the country. I thought Judas died without leaving an heir?

    • kanoy


  • robert franklin

    February 2013, a Jordanian kidnapped (will be murdered anytime). Before in October 2002, an American Marine murdered. In September 2009, these pirates of the sultan killed 2 U.S. sailors and a Filipino marine. All these happened in kiram’s sulu backyard.

    These kirams are despicable tyrants. You give in to them today, next they will claim manila under their sultanate. You would be thinking JKIII is having a vacation with his followers right now in manila, he might be planning terror attack in manila itself. He is dreaming Malacanang Palace, get it?

  • Petwil

    I could not understand why the President of this government is busy and exerting much time knowing who are the rightful heirs and the financiers of the Sabah stand-off. With due respect to  the president, these acts of yours are really far fetched as they do not confront the real issue. This issue is a national issue and it is your moral duty to act on this. Likewise, if you are morally convinced that we have no  legal merits to claim Sabah, tell the Filipinos once and for all. Don’t keep going around the issue..

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