MANILA, Philippines – Sulu Sultan Bantilan Esmail Kiram II defended President Benigno Aquino III on Monday, saying his administration has never abandoned them.
“I don’t believe President Aquino is not concerned about our situation. [His concern] was evident when he sent emissaries to talk to us,” said Esmail Kiram II who said he was appointed by the elders of the sultanate to be the “acting sultan.”
Esmail, joined by other members of the Kiram household, held a press conference immediately after his three-hour meeting with Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, in which he suggested strategies and means to end the crisis in Sabah.
The meeting showed the Kirams’ willingness to cooperate with the government in ending the violence in Lahad Datu, involving Esmail’s younger brother Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, who claimed to be the Sulu crown prince.
Esmail, however, declined to divulge details about the meeting saying their proposal must reach Aquino first.
The acting sultan said he was invited by the Malaysian government to go to Sabah to speak to his younger brother Raja Muda and help in the negotiation but efforts went for naught.
“There’s no use for me to go there. [Raja Muda] told me he was firm in his decision to stay in Sabah because it was his,” he said. “And, I was afraid that something might happen to me,” he added.
The second option offered to them was to send an advance party in Malaysia to ensure the safety of the Kirams and the Philippine government officials.
“OK na ang plane na sasakyan namin. Look at how [Aquino is helping us]. But I was surprised that the Malaysian government up to now has given no response,” he said.
“It’s no longer our fault [that negotiations bogged down],” the acting sultan said.
But he said even if he urges Raja Muda to come back to the Philippines and lay down arms, the latter would not listen. “It’s still up to him,” he added.
“It’s hard to just prod him to come back. He went there on his own,” he said.
Esmail shared that the crown prince had never told him about his real plans in Sabah. “He said their purpose was only to live there because that is our homeland… and their bringing of weapons were only for their security,” he said.
No female spokesperson
Esmail also told reporters that the elders of the sultanate had barred Princess Jacel Kiram, the daughter of Jamalul Kiram II, from speaking to the media about the issue.
“The elders have finalized that only Abraham Idjirani is authorized to give statement on the matter,” he said.
He noted that the Jamalul’s daughter is a woman, and thus, could be “emotional.”
“Many of the things she says are not about the subject matter, which is how to resolve the situation in Sabah,” he said. Princess Jacel has been openly criticizing the Aquino administration on how it was handling the ongoing standoff in Sabah.
When asked to comment about the alleged police brutality against Filipino immigrants in Sabah, he said it was no longer new and in fact the abuses against Filipinos have been happening a long time ago even before the crisis.
“They have been treating the Filipinos there not as human beings. What they are doing are un-Islamic and acts of non-believer of Islam,” he said