MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III said Thursday the government has to determine first the charges against the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu and their men over the Sabah standoff before it decides on dealing them away to Malaysia.
The President said the Department of Justice was now looking into the liability of the personalities involved in the incursion by an heir of the Sultanate of Sulu and armed followers into Lahad Datu town on Feb. 12.
“Let our citizens here in the country face the charges that we will be proffering first. Then we will talk about other developments after they have satisfied the requirements of our laws,’’ Aquino said on the prospect of extraditing Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to Malaysia.
Aquino said the Philippines has no extradition treaty with Malaysia, but there is an Asean Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty that is already enforced. Otherwise, the matter was being studied by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
“All of these issues are being studied by the DOJ currently like what are we empowered to do by our laws and by various treaties and agreements that we have entered into over the years,’’ he told reporters in Davao City in an interview aired over government-run radio.
Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak has raised the possibility of the Philippines extraditing Jamalul to Malaysia possibly to face charges there.
Jamalul authorized his brother, crown prince Agbimuddin Kiram, to journey to Sabah, and throughout the weeks-long standoff, called the shots from his home in Taguig City. On Thursday, after days of air and land attack against the Filipinos, he called for a ceasefire.
Aquino, however, admitted that the DOJ was still investigating the liability, and the charges to be filed against the players and conspirators in the incursion.
“We’re still at the investigation stage… You have the investigation; there will be conclusions. There will be a determination of whether it warrants the filing of charges. So we’re not yet at the stage that we will file by tomorrow or the next day. In fact, we are still in the investigation portion,’’ he said.
He said the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation were investigating the “possible people who are involved in this incident and the degree of their involvement.’’
“We are trying to cover any and all contingencies,’’ he said.
In his most recent TV address last Monday, he spoke of the alleged involvement of the Arroyo administration in a conspiracy that led to the standoff.
He said the creation of an army outside the Armed Forces of the Philippines, intrusion into a foreign land with arms, and inciting others to war were punishable by Philippine laws.
In his first TV address Tuesday last week, the President warned Jamalul that he would face the “full force of the law’’ unless he withdrew his forces. Jamalul defied this anew.
At least 10 Philippine Navy and Coast Guard vessels were manning a blockade to prevent any group from the Mindanao to cross to Sabah, the President said.
“The Secretary of the Interior and Local Government is dialoguing now with various Muslim groups. He is presently in Basilan and to explain what the government has been doing, what the aims of government are,’’ he said, referring to Secretary Manuel Roxas II.