GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines—What’s happening in Sabah is wrong, so why do we have to support it?
This was how President Benigno Aquino III defended his administration’s handling of the Sabah crisis during a political rally here of Team PNoy senatorial bets on Wednesday.
“Itong pangyayaring ito ay mali. Kung mali, bakit natin susuportahan? (This incident is wrong. If this is wrong, then why do we have to support it?)” Aquino said.
The President made the remark amid criticisms his administration mishandled the Sabah issue, which from a standoff has escalated into a full-blown armed conflict between the followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of Sulu and the Malaysian security forces in the Sabah district of Lahad Datu.
Aquino insisted that the Sabah claim should be resolved peacefully, saying the problem started when the Sultanate of Sulu leased Sabah to the British North Borneo Company in 1878.
“Saan ba nagmula ang problema? Hindi ba galing sa ninuno nila na nagbigay ng lease o awtoridad sa British para mamamahala sa Sabah? Kung meron silang problema doon sa kasunduan, at kung tayo naman po ay may interest, dapat ho siguro pag-usapan ng mahinahon (What is the cause of the problem? Isn’t it that their ancestors began it when they leased Sabah to the British? If they have a problem with the agreement, and if we are interested, then we need to talk about it in a peaceful manner),” he said.
“Kung mali ang yung pinagkasunduan noon, iwasto natin (If the agreement signed then was wong, then we need to correct it),” he said.
Aquino lamented that the entire Philippines was now being dragged into the problem when the sultanate’s claim over Sabah was not yet clear.
“Hindi pa ganoon kaliwanag na iyong karapatan nila ay ibinahagi na sa Pilipinas. Pero sa away nila idadamay tayong lahat (It’s not yet clear that they are sharing their right to Sabah with the Philippines. But in their fight, the entire nation is being dragged into the issue),” he said.
As head of the state, Aquino said it was his obligation to protect the interest of the majority of the Filipinos.
In September 1962, the Sultanate of Sulu ceded Sabah to the Philippines, giving Manila the full authority to pursue the claim.
Aquino also lamented what he described as propaganda war that is now affecting the relationship between Malaysia and the Philippines.
The people, he said, were his witness how he had repeatedly appealed to the sultan’s men to return home and discuss the problem peacefully.
“Mali ho ba ang mungkahing yun. Tama po ba ang sinususog nila na dapat suportahan natin yung may dala dalang armas, na nagkaroon na ng patayan? (That suggestion is wrong. Is it correct that we support those who are carrying arms, and there is killing?)” he said.
Malaysia had also repeatedly urged the Filipinos to leave peacefully after they slipped past naval patrols last month and occupied a remote village in an obscure part of Sabah’s eastern seaboard.
The Filipinos refused to leave, insisting that Sabah, a state rich with timber and oil, had once belonged to their royal sultanate for more than a century and should be handed back.
Malaysian soldiers and police on Tuesday attacked the area that the Filipinos have occupied for three weeks in an extraordinary siege intended to highlight their territorial claim to the entire state of Sabah, which the Filipinos insist is their ancestral birthright. With report from Associated Press