Sulu sultan defies Aquino, won’t leave Sabah-A A +A
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
MANILA (Updated) -- The group of armed Filipinos from Sulu who have been holed up in Sabah, Malaysia for two weeks now defied Tuesday President Benigno Aquino III’s directive to leave the island.
Aquino, in a televised speech Tuesday, said the Philippine Government will be pushed to file cases against Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his followers since their actions can pose threat to national security and public safety.
"As President and chief executor of our laws, I have tasked an investigation into possible violations of laws by you, your followers, and collaborators engaged in this foolhardy act. May I remind you as well that as a citizen of the Republic, you are bound by the Constitution and its laws," Aquino said.
But Sultan Jamalul said Sabah belongs to his family, thus there is no need to immediately heed calls from President Aquino and the Malaysian Government to leave the place as soon as possible.
He said in a statement that the fact that Malaysia has been paying an annual rent of 5,300 ringgit (roughly P70,000) to the Sultanate of Sulu shows that their territorial claim is valid.
He said his brother, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, went to Sabah to “peacefully settle” the issue. He said his brother is accompanied by armed men who are protecting the crowned prince.
“History proves that the Sultan of Sulu has never been involved in any violence in its quest for justice. It is very inappropriate to level the Sulu of Sulu as violent entity. As far as we are concerned, we haven't committed a crime,” Jamalul said.
The Kirams from Sulu have occupied Sabah since February 9. They have been claiming the land in Tanduao village in Lahad Datu, Sabah for nearly a century.
President Aquino warned the Kirams Tuesday of possible charges for violating Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, which states that the Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy, the enabling law of which is Article 118 of the Revised Penal Code, which punishes those who "provoke or give occasion for a war...or expose Filipino citizens to reprisals on their persons or property."
But Agbimuddin Kiram said he and his followers will not leave Sabah, “because it is ours.”
“We're not invading this place… Sabah is owned by the sultan of Sulu, so what crime are we violating?” he said, adding his group is fast running out of food.
He said the village of Tanduao in Lahad Datu has been surrounded by Malaysian police and abandoned by long-time Filipino residents, who feared getting caught in crossfire.
"If the Malaysian police come with guns, we have to defend ourselves," Agbimuddin said.
Jamalul said “the Sultanate of Sulu will face the consequence if we violated laws in the Philippines…We will assure you that if an agreement will be reached, all arms will be returned to the Philippines and the 235 security forces will reside in Sabah.”
He said he is also wondering why Malaysia is not interested to face them.
“All we ask is for Malaysia to sit down with the Kirams and come up with a win-win solution,” he said.
The Muslim leader also took an apparent dig at former secessionist movements, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), for taking up arms against the Philippine Government.
“Mr. President, I, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, pledges that my brother Datu Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram and our followers will not initiate the violence and signed it with blood and that of my brothers…But we are prepared to defend our lives and aspirations,” said Jamalul.
Still, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the clan violated the law.
“How can they expect to achieve something with a group composed of approximately 180 people with 25 to 30 armed men? What is that all about? That’s why the President can’t help but suspect that there might be other groups or personalities behind it,” she told reporters on Tuesday.
By figuring in a standoff with Malaysian security forces, De Lima said Kiram’s group is only putting at risk the lives of Filipinos living in Sabah and the diplomatic relations between two countries.
Malaysia is the third party facilitator of the government’s ongoing peace process with the MILF.
De Lima also clarified Tuesday that President Aquino’s call for Kiram’s group to withdraw does not mean the Philippines is already abandoning future claims on Sabah, now considered to be part of Malaysian territory.
She said she has yet to receive directive from the President to effect an arrest of the armed group, but added the Department of Justice is now conducting a study on whether they may file additional charges or sanctions against the perpetrators.
Malacanang spokesman Edwin Lacierda told Sun.Star on Tuesday that the President’s statement on the matter is clear. “Mr. Jamalul Kiram III has the opportunity to end this standoff peacefully.”
President Aquino said he had ordered an extensive study into the Sulu sultanate's claim to Sabah, but warned that the effort could run into a dilemma over the convoluted history of the dispute.
Aquino also said that the government braced for any contingencies, adding that navies from both the Philippines and Malaysia took steps to prevent more people from entering Lahad Datu.
The Philippines notified Malaysia over the weekend that it sent a navy ship with social and medical workers off Lahad Datu while talks to persuade the Filipinos to return home continued. (VR/Virgil Lopez/JCV/AP/Sunnex)