MANILA, Philippines — Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram has not gone back to southern Philippines as Malaysia once claimed, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Thursday.
“We have no report to that effect,” Gazmin told reporters when asked for his comment on the statement of Malaysia’s top security officials that Kiram slipped out of Sabah last week.
However, Gazmin said that the Philippines and Malaysia have agreed to exchange information about the Sabah incursion.
Agbimuddin, the younger brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, led the so-called royal security force in occupying Lahad Datu town last February to revive the sultanate’s claim to the eastern coast of Sabah.
Gazmin noted that Malaysia has deployed 12 battalions to hunt down Agbimuddin and his men.
“Remember, the Raja Muda has been there for quite some time and he has been moving in and out of Malaysia so he knows the terrain. He has a lot of relatives. Once upon a time, he was a (local official) so he knows the area,” Gazmin said.
Moreover, Gazmin, a retired Army general, described the ongoing conflict in Sabah as a “low intensity conflict.”
“(Agbimuddin) is like a fish in the water. Take out the water, you find the fish,” Gazmin said in Filipino.
On reports describing Agbimuddin as a Malaysian citizen, Gazmin said this could change the complexity of the conflict.
“Since he is Malaysian, then Malaysian laws should apply to him while he is there,” he said.
Asked if the government has been checking Agbimuddin’s nationality, Gazmin replied: “I cannot give you a definite answer on that. Maybe we are. But we have not found any conclusive answer yet.”