(First of a three-part column)

We can see the worry in the face of Princess Jacel as she updates her father, her emotional appeal to end the attack against her father’s men, and her anger at Pres. Aquino. In the press conference, she wore the Muslim woman’s veil or tirong in her Tausug language, emotional in her challenge against Aquino.  This is the image of a Muslim woman challenging the state because she is a victim of government neglect, of human rights violation such as enforced evacuation in a conflict area, or whose husband or son was falsely identified as an Abu Sayyaf member and illegally arrested in exchange of rewards against terrorists.

By AMIRA ALI LIDASAN
Davao Today

Looking at Princess Jacel Kiram speak for the first time in a press conference on television, it occurred to me that this princess has defied many stereotypes of a Moro bai, potre or dayang.  She wore none of the frills and gold that we often see worn by elite Moro women during kawing/kalilang (wedding) or important occasions such as going to the Malacañang.

At first, she looked timid, beside his father, Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, informing him of what was happening in Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia where his uncle, Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram,  brought with him around 200 followers, some armed, on February 11 to reiterate the claim of ownership of Sabah by the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu.

We see another Princess Jacel when President Benigno Aquino III announced his ultimatum on February 26 for voluntarily withdrawal of the Sultanate’s armed followers from North Borneo. Pres. Aquino issued directives that his administration will arrest Rajah Muda Kiram and his men once they return to Philippine shores on the basis of gun ban during the election period.

A feisty and determined princess took over on March 9, challenging the President on his stand on the issue, lambasting him for abandoning them in time of crisis.  It was the eighth day that the Malaysian government has been bombing Rajah Mudah’s position in Lahad Datu.  A firefight ensued between the Malaysian forces and Rajah Muda’s forces on March 1. Prime Minister Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak categorized the Sultan’s forces as terrorists and ordered an aerial and ground attack at Lahad Datu on March 5. This led to the death of more than 22 Sultan’s forces, the arrest of more than 50 and start of the crackdown against Moro migrant workers in Sabah.

Pres. Aquino also conducted its own crackdown, accusing the Kiram family of conspiracy with former government officials associated with the previous administration (as his usual style to cover up his incompetence) and Professor Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front.  He ordered a probe led by the National Bureau of Investigation which summoned the suspects.

We can see the worry in the face of Princess Jacel as she updates her father, her emotional appeal to end the attack against her father’s men, and her anger at Pres. Aquino. In the press conference, she wore the Muslim woman’s veil or tirong in her Tausug language, emotional in her challenge against Aquino.  This is the image of a Muslim woman challenging the state because she is a victim of government neglect, of human rights violation such as enforced evacuation in a conflict area, or whose husband or son was falsely identified as an Abu Sayyaf member and illegally arrested in exchange of rewards against terrorists.

Now that the Moro people in the grassroots can identify with her, she was criticized by her own uncle, Sultan Bantilan Esmail Kiram II, who told the media that she has no right to be the spokesperson of the Sultanate because she was too emotional.  Sultan Esmael has just finished a closed-door meeting with Pres. Aquino’s envoy, Manuel Roxas III of the Department of Interior and Local Government on March 11. Sultan Esmael went further in correcting Princess Jacel’s statement saying that Pres. Aquino never abandoned them.

This despite the admission of the President having lost in the bureaucratic process the letters of the Kiram family which reminded the President of his responsibility in addressing the Sultanate’s claim over Sabah. 

Second Part: A royalty to the colonials
Last part: A bitter pill for Moro migrant workers

Amirah Ali Lidasan is an Iranun and hails from a prominent Moro clan in Maguindanao. She is an observer of Moro politics and an activist. Write to Amira at amirah.lidasan@gmail.com

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