MANILA, Philippines—Senatorial candidate Teodoro Casiño on Monday said it is not too late for President Aquino to talk with Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to resolve the crisis in Sabah that has claimed more than two dozen lives.
“I think the President should have a dialogue with the sultan. It’s a very simple thing to do. It’s not too late for the President to talk to Sultan Jamalul. It will not demean the presidency,” Casiño told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview at Jamalul’s home in Taguig City where the candidate paid a visit to the sultan.
Casiño noted that Mr. Aquino had gone out of his way to meet with Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Murad Ebrahim in Japan as a big gesture for the peace process.
“The President has flexible options on how he would dialogue with the sultan. It can even be done (behind) closed doors for all I care,” Casiño said.
For Casiño, Jamalul is one of the “bosses” that Mr. Aquino promised to serve in his inaugural speech in 2010 so the sultan should have been given an ear when he was proposing to advance a cause that was based on history.
“I think if the President and his government addressed the issue squarely, they could have helped broker a solution with the sultanate and Malaysia. But they neglected it,” he said.
“They (Mr. Aquino and his advisers) probably thought the heirs would allow themselves to be pushed over by Malaysia. They failed to see that this is a deep-rooted issue. They are not strangers in Sabah,” Casiño said.
He said a dialogue would be a way of looking for solutions to the crisis and the Sabah claim.
But the problem, Casiño said, is that days into the standoff between the followers of the Sulu sultanate and the Malaysian police commandos, “Malacañang took a hardline (stance) by telling the sultan’s followers that there would be no talks if they won’t surrender.”
“That was counterproductive. He (Mr. Aquino) should have just talked to the guy (Jamalul),” Casiño said.
Before Casiño arrived, former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan chair Carol Araullo had met with Jamalul and his spokesperson, Abraham Idjirani.
Ocampo and Araullo condemned the attitude of Mr. Aquino toward the Sabah crisis.
They said their groups were going to hold a protest action at the Malaysian Embassy on Tuesday and later proceed to Malacañang.