Foreign secretary to apologize to Kirams for unanswered letter

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Alberto del Rosario

Foreign Affairs secretary Alberto del Rosario. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario is set to formally apologize to the heirs of the sultanate of Sulu for failing to attend to a letter the Kiram family had sent the government in 2010 to seek the revival of the country’s dormant claim to Sabah and a role in peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

In a text message, Del Rosario said he intends to write a letter expressing his regrets for overlooking the letter that Rajah Mudah Agbimmudin Kiram, younger brother of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, sent President Aquino just before he assumed office almost three years ago.

“I intend to write a letter of apology,” said Del Rosario.

He earlier took “full responsibility for the oversight” of the letter, which the President earlier said was “lost in the bureaucratic maze.”

Aquino earlier appealed to the Kirams not to feel ignored because of the unattended letter.

In a statement early Wednesday, the DFA disclosed that the “missing letter” of Agbimuddin Kiram had been found to be in the foreign office’s keeping.

The younger Kiram is the leader of the Sulu group standing its ground in Sabah, Malaysia, where gunfights have erupted between Malaysian forces and the sultan’s followers in the wake of their refusal to leave Sabah.

“On the issue of the missing letter written by Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram to the President days before the President took his oath in June 2010, that letter has been found with the DFA. The secretary is taking full responsibility for the oversight,” said the DFA.

The statement did not elaborate on the contents of the letter or how it got “lost in the bureaucratic maze,” as Aquino himself said last week in explaining why the government failed to respond to the letter.

In addressing Kiram on Feb. 26, Aquino said “there was no intention to ignore your letter.”

The Kirams had said their group decided to pursue the Philippine’s claim to Sabah last month as they felt left out of peace negotiations between the government and the MILF. The two sides achieved substantial progress last year, with the signing of a framework agreement for the establishment of a Bangsamoro juridical entity.

The DFA said the Kiram’s independent act in Sabah “should not affect the peace process with the MILF.”

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