PNoy and Sabah-A A +A
Friday, March 8, 2013
I WOULD have wanted to give President Noynoy Aquino the benefit of the doubt and write something nice even as others are flogging him for supposedly mishandling the conflict in Sabah involving members of the clan of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of Sulu and the Malaysian government. I would have wanted to say that, contrary to what the critics claim, PNoy did his best and there is nothing he can do better.
But I must admit I couldn’t.
There’s this game that I play in my mind. What if, say, the Sabah incident happened under the watch of former president Fidel V. Ramos, a Westpoint alumnus and former chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines? Would he have done what PNoy is doing now or would he have been more proactive and creative?
Okay, comparison is odious, so let’s set aside FVR for the moment. But even then, I would say that PNoy could have done better. Allow me to ramble a bit:
--The missing letter. Days before PNoy took his oath of office in June 2010, Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of Jamalul and who claims to be the raja muda (the sultan’s successor), sent the President a letter seeking the “sultanate’s” participation in the government’s talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The letter, if we are to believe Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, did not reach PNoy.
Which reminds me of another letter, an invitation Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama sent to PNoy so he could grace the Sinulog grand parade in January. The President snubbed the event claiming he did not receive the letter. PNoy may have lied (Rama is not his man), but the impression given is that letters sent to Malacañang tend to end up being either misplaced or overlooked.
--Overlooked. Granting that PNoy didn’t receive the letter, but was that reason enough to overlook the Sultan of Sulu’s gripes, especially when talks with the MILF were re-ignited under his administration? How well-informed were his advisers on the scope of the Mindanao problem and its protagonists?
I read somewhere the admission of civil society leader Pastor Saycon that he talked with the sultan prior to the intrusion of some members of the clan into Sabah. He claimed to have known of the plan to enter Sabah months before. Again, why didn’t the Aquino administration get wind of what a mere private citizen knew in advance?
--Verbal exchange. Before the situation in Sabah turned violent, PNoy seemed content distancing himself from the Kirams while talking to them through the media, advising the “intruders” to pull out of Sabah while at the same time warning of legal moves being prepared against them. The Kirams responded in kind, and the verbal exchange became a spectacle—one that Malaysia apparently watched with interest.
Until now, PNoy refuses to talk with the sultan, insisting on his stand that the intruders should first pull out of Sabah before he would do so. He also talked about a conspiracy, alluding to the Gloria camp. And while Rome, I mean Sabah, is “burning,” he is busy going around the country campaigning for his senatorial bets.
Ceasefire. Yesterday, Kiram announced that his people in Sabah would observe a unilateral ceasefire. He expressed the hope that the Malaysian government would reciprocate that move with its own declaration of a truce. I interpret this as the sultan looking for a way out of the mess he has created. His people are being decimated in Sabah.
But PNoy has other ideas. He has ordered the filing of cases against Kiram, et al. It’s called putting salt into a painful wound.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 08, 2013.