For lawyer Michael Pito of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao, historical accounts would show that the Sultanate of Sulu has established its sovereignty over Sabah. “It was in a sovereign capacity when he entered into a transaction with a British company. Sabah in the hearts and minds of the Moro people, it is part of their political territory, and not just (their) property.”
By CHERYLL D. FIEL
DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Saying that the President is making a “historical mistake,” various groups criticized President Benigno Aquino III for his statements regarding the Sultanate of Sulu’s bid to reclaim Sabah.
During a break in the senatorial election campaign here, Wednesday, the President claimed that Sultan Jumalul Kiram’s action shows the latter’s “pansariling interes lamang at hindi ang kapakanan ng nakararami (personal interest and not the interest of the many).” He also called the act as “kalokohan (foolhardy).”
For lawyer Michael Pito of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM), historical accounts would show that the Sultanate of Sulu has established its sovereignty over Sabah. “It was in a sovereign capacity when he entered into a transaction with a British company. Sabah in the hearts and minds of the Moro people is part of their political territory, and not just (their) property.”
Amirah Ali Lidasan, secretary general of the group Moro-Christian People’s Alliance (MCPA), denounced the President’s statements as a show of “wanton disregard of the lives of the Moro people.”
She said Aquino’s “irresponsible” statements will not only lead to the further disgruntlement of the Moro people, but to the loss of lives.”
The problem when it comes to the international community, Pito said, is that the Sultanate has lost its personality before them. “No one recognizes (the sultanate) as a state. They are not even a belligerent state. So that is the problem now,” Pito said, adding that in this situation, it should have been the President as a state party, who should have acted on the part of the Sultanate, to bring the matter to the United Nations.
He said the President should have talked it out with the Sultanate first, but apparently, the President neglected this, paving the way for the Sultanate to resort to desperate measures.
The wife of Sultan Kiram said they wrote a letter to Aquino in 2010 asking if they can take part in the peace talks between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The letter was apparently lost in the foreign affairs office.
If Aquino had been resolute in averting the hostilities, he would have taken the matter up with the United Nations, pleaded against the Malaysian government’s violent measures, and instead resolve the matter peacefully, added Pito.
A test of sincerity
Lidasan further said the Sabah standoff is “a test of leadership” of President Aquino, adding that this is also “a test to the sincerity of the Malaysian government in promoting peace and helping Mindanao attain peace.”
Already, the violent response of the Malaysian government has imperiled the lives of Filipinos living in Sabah. “Many of them have been affected by the violent actions of Malaysian forces. And these are the people working hard for their government, but are receiving measly wages,” Lidasan said.
The MCPA is worried that more Filipino Muslims living in Malaysia will not only bear the brunt of the Malaysian government’s punitive actions but will also be facing economic dislocation.
Lidasan added that they are also worried that more human rights violations will be committed as the Philippine Armed Forces have raised the red alert level.
“We do not know who they are raising the red alert level against. We hope, that the state’s armed forces will not take advantage of the issue again to instill a crackdown on struggling Moro people,” Lidasan said.
Implications on the GPH-MILF framework agreement
Lidasan said the incident in Sabah only “shows the true colors of the brokers of the peace agreement,” referring to President Aquino and the Malaysian government which facilitates the current peace deal with the MILF.
“Now it is clear, that faced with the issue at hand, they cannot give peace, but instead, war,” Lidasan said, adding that the violence inflicted by the Malaysian forces on troops of the Sultanate in Sabah, being condoned by the President, strikes at the heart of the deep-seated “historical injustice” felt by the Moro people leveled on them.
“It should not be forgotten that it is this historic injustice sparking the Bangsamoro’s struggle for independence,” Lidasan said.
Lidasan also thinks the actions of the Sultanate is a message to the national government to hear out their long-standing clamor, not discounting the auspicious timing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), the peace deal which is now currently being hammered between the MILF and the Philippine government.
“Looking at FAB, you can see that it does not include the entire span of issues faced by the Moro people,” Lidasan said. “However, this is now the chance perhaps, to firm up the framework, and make it favorable to the Moro people and not to the current administration,” she added.
For Lidasan, the burden to expand the consultation on the FAB now rests with the Philippine government.
“As we have observed, the consultations are only directed to the heads of local governments, and if you can see, even these local governments of the autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao are rocked with complaints from their constituents, which means some sectors of the Moro society have indeed been left out,” she added. (Cheryll D. Fiel/davaotoday.com)