Kirams: Aquino only heeds advice of Malaysian sultan
MANILA, Philippines—Is President Aquino listening to advice from a Malaysian sultan in dealing with the Sabah crisis?
The daughter of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III wanted an answer to that question from Malacañang.
She got it, plus flak for her family’s Sabah adventure that had already cost 72 lives.
Princess Jacel Kiram on Wednesday told a news conference that Aquino was heeding the advice of Sultan Ibrahim Ismail of the sultanate of Johor, Malaysia, on the Sabah crisis.
Princess Jacel also criticized the President for “lawyering for the Malaysians” and for his supposed statements that “only favored the interests of Malaysia.”
“Who is Sultan Ibrahim?” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda asked during a press briefing in Malacañang.
Lacierda said it was the first time for him to hear the name of Sultan Ibrahim.
“The Kirams are raising innuendos left and right, pointing to everyone but themselves,” he said.
“How does one expect this government to support adventurism and an armed approach to an issue that has . . . festered since the 19th century?” Lacierda asked.
“In their zeal to press for their proprietary claim, they have resorted to arms, and now that their foolhardy adventurism has cost precious lives, they lay the blame on everyone except themselves,” he said.
Citing “Malacañang sources,” Jacel said Ismail and his late father, Sultan Mahmud Iskandar, stayed with the President and his family in Boston, Massachusetts, in the 1970s.
Abraham Idjirani, the sultanate’s spokesman and secretary general, said Aquino’s father, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., who underwent heart surgery in Boston, was a close friend of Ismail’s father.
“They (the President and Ismail) knew each other way back,” Jacel said.
“Who is (Ismail)… to you? Is he the person responsible why the President wouldn’t listen to any advice from any of his political counsels?” she said, reading from a prepared statement.
“Mr. President, was he the same person who lived with you in Boston when your father was there? What does he have to do with your act regarding this issue?” she asked.
Asked by reporters to explain the matter, Jacel said Ismail “is the consultant. He gives advice to the President.”
Idjirani also urged the President to temporarily stop joining the campaign rallies of his administration’s senatorial candidates and handle the problems of Filipinos being deported from Sabah.
“We appeal to the President to at least sit down and for a while postpone [campaigning] and do [as] Indonesian President (Susilo Bambang) Yudhoyono [is doing for] 8,000 reportedly harassed [Indonesians] in Sabah,” Idjirani said.
“We appeal to the President to take a stand on the deportees now being shipped from Sabah without being taken care [of by our government],” Idjirani said.
Jacel said the President’s closeness to Ismail, who she claimed was an ally of former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, could also explain why Aquino’s statements and actions were “pro-Malaysia.”
“(Ismail) could be the link. The sultan of Johor is so close to him,” Jacel said.
“I’m really dismayed about the way our President decides and for his statements that are very pro-Malaysian.”
Of the leaders of the 13 Malaysian states, the sultan of Johor is considered among the most powerful, she said.
When told about Jacel’s claims involving the sultan of Johor, Lacierda said Malacañang did not have to comment on every accusation from its critics.
“She should answer this first: She should explain why she came out with a picture purportedly showing Malaysian casualties (in the fighting in Sabah), but they turned out to be Thai casualties,” Lacierda said. “She’s now [telling] a new tall tale.”
Lacierda noted that the Kirams come up with “new names” as the Sabah crisis continues.
Jacel also told the news conference that a lawyer who supposedly knew of the alleged plan to kill her father and his supporters went to the National Bureau of Investigation on Wednesay to file an affidavit about the purported assassination plot hatched by a Malaysian military officer.
Lacierda dismissed the story about the alleged plot as possibly “another tall tale coming from the Kiram family.”
Jacel said lawyer Mario Lozada met with Sunny Ng, a colonel in the Malaysian Army, at Genting Palace restaurant in the Resorts World casino complex in Pasay City on Monday.
She said the meeting was arranged by Malaysian businessman Kenneth Lee, who was connected with a Malaysian firm where Lozada worked as a legal consultant.
“They intimated to (Lozada) that they are here to assassinate the sultan and his friends (including his adviser Pastor Saycon),” Jacel said.
Saycon appeared at the NBI headquarters on Wednesday to “explain the threat” against the Kirams.
He said five Malaysians headed by Ng arrived in the country to assassinate him and the Kirams.
Saycon told reporters he would ask the NBI to investigate after Malacañang dismissed the threat without ordering an investigation.
Jacel said the NBI and military officials had committed to look into the supposed plot to assassinate Sultan Jamalul, members of his family and their followers.
“Malaysia is emboldened to act radically because of the (President’s) pro-Malaysian statements,” she said.
Idjirani disclosed the alleged plot on Tuesday, saying that Ng hired three “NPA (New People’s Army) recruits” to carry out the mission.
Lacierda said the Kirams should “validate the story” by naming names.
“That’s a story that came from them. What can you expect us to say?” he said.
Lacierda later forwarded to reporters a text message from National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia that described the probability of the supposed assassination plot as “very low.”
“Verification made by the intelligence community has yielded negative results so far. A check conducted on the alleged presence of certain named individuals in certain hotels also came up with negative results,” Garcia said.
“Verification is still going on but off-hand, the intelligence community is giving this report a very low probability,” he said.
For his part, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari said the government was not keen on pursuing the Kirams’ claim to Sabah because of Malaysia’s involvement in the peace talks between the Aquino administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Misuari told reporters last week that when Malaysia offered to help facilitate the peace negotiations, Sabah was at the center of the discussion.
In exchange for brokering a peace deal with the MILF, Misuari said, Malaysia asked the Philippines to drop its claim to Sabah.
“That’s the biggest issue because they (Malaysia) are earning a lot of money from there. The MILF deal was put together to give Sabah to Kuala Lumpur,” he said.—With reports from Erika Sauler in Manila and Jeoffrey Maitem, Allan Nawal and Ryan Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.