Palace spokesman belittles word of Kirams on Sabah issue
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Monday advised the camp of Jamalul Kiram III to stop speculating about their alleged extradition to Malaysia in connection with the Sabah crisis in February.
“That’s just a claim,” Secretary Edwin Lacierda, presidential spokesperson, said in a Malacañang briefing. “Let’s wait for an official statement from us. I don’t want to dignify any statement coming from the Kirams.”
Lacierda also refused comment on how the country could apply the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with Malaysia to extradite Kiram. He said he did not want to speculate on a statement from Kiram.
In a briefing in Taguig City, Kiram divulged a government plan to extradite him to Malaysia in connection with the arrival of his brother and armed followers by boat in Sabah to press the sultanate of Sulu’s claim to the state.
Kiram claimed the information came from a “reliable source in government.’’
The crisis was triggered by the incursion of Agbimuddin Kiram and armed followers into Lahad Datu town in Sabah in February.
The conflict led to the deaths of more than 70 people, mostly Kiram’s followers, and sent thousands of undocumented Filipinos fleeing the state.
After violence erupted between Malaysian forces and Kiram’s followers in March, President Aquino ordered key Cabinet officials to conduct a comprehensive study of the centuries-old claim to Sabah.
Lacierda said he had yet to confirm from Justice Secretary Leila de Lima if the President had been furnished a copy of the National Bureau of Investigation’s report on the incident.
“Wait, there is an investigation, and I am not privy to the investigation report itself or what the content of the investigation is,” he said over the possibility of conspiracy in the incursion. “So I cannot speculate on what the reports or what the content of the report will be or is.”
As violence escalated in Sabah in early March, Mr. Aquino spoke of the alleged involvement of an Arroyo administration official in the conspiracy, and said the cases were being “built up’’ against the culprits.
Former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, former Tarlac Representative Jose Cojuangco and his wife Margarita, and Moro National Liberation Front had been implicated as financiers of the Kirams’ excursion into Sabah. They strongly denied this.
The President indicated that the Kirams and the conspirators would face charges later.
“Let’s start with this: does the Constitution sanction any armed force beside the Armed Forces of the Philippines? Is there not a provision against armed groups? They are obviously by definition an armed group. They call themselves a particular name, and there is allegedly some connivance by certain members of the previous administration in the formation of this, which is in violation of the Constitution and various other laws of the land,” he said then.
He also cited the penalties of the Revised Penal Code for4 inciting to war. “When an armed group goes into an area administered by a different nation, can that not be considered an act of war by some of our citizens?” he added.