“Sabah ang nagpapaganda at nagpapapangit ng relasyon natin with Malaysia mula po noong 1960s. Lumaki ang gulo natin sa Silangan dahil sa sigalot na yan. Ngayon po ay nagbago na. Partner na natin ang Malaysia sa pag uusap sa MILF. Tumulong ng isang dekada hangang umabot tayo sa pag pirma ng Framework Agreement. Tayo po ay maayos na lahi. Papasalamatan ba natin sila ng kaguluhan? Mali naman natin iyon.” — President Benigno Aquino III
By MARILOU AGUIRRE-TUBURAN
DAVAO CITY, Philippines — As the crisis in Sabah rages, President Benigno Aquino III said the Philippine government is doing everything it can to prevent the situation from going out of control.
But while this has been Aquino’s pronouncements, various groups have been disappointed with his “handling” on the Sabah issue.
In a press conference Thursday at the SMX Lanang Convention Center, Aquino told reporters that there are at least 10 Philippine Navy and Coast Guard vessels “manning a blockade” to prevent anybody from “adding to the troubles.”
The president also said that the Department of Justice, including the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation, is in the forefront of examining and investigating “who are possibly involved in the incident and the degree of their involvement.”
“We are trying to cover any and all contingencies,” Aquino said, adding that Secretary Mar Roxas of the Department of Interior and Local Government “is dialoging now with various Muslim groups (in Basilan) to explain what the government has been doing, what the aims of the government are.”
For lawyer Carlos Zarate, second nominee of Bayan Muna partylist, “(E)ven in the Constitution, it’s pretty simple and clear-cut: Sabah is ours.”
He also advised Aquino to “check your Constitution,” and invoked the Philippine Constitution of 1935 which states that “the national territory of the Philippines included, among other things, all other areas which belong to the Philippines on the basis of historical rights or legal claims.”
“Sabah ang nagpapaganda at nagpapapangit ng relasyon natin with Malaysia mula po noong 1960s. Lumaki ang gulo natin sa Silangan dahil sa sigalot na yan. Ngayon po ay nagbago na. Partner na natin ang Malaysia sa pag uusap sa MILF. Tumulong ng isang dekada hangang umabot tayo sa pag pirma ng Framework Agreement. Tayo po ay maayos na lahi. Papasalamatan ba natin sila ng kaguluhan? Mali naman natin iyon,” Aquino added.
Human rights group Karapatan said that the crisis in Sabah only showed Aquino’s “disregard for life” including the country’s sovereignty.
This as a number of Moro people have been killed in a bloody encounter at the Lahad Datu town in Sabah.
Karapatan, in a statement, said that Aquino should have interceded for the Filipino Muslims through an urgent and diligent negotiation with the Malaysian government for the issue to be peacefully resolved. But, it said Aquino was “insensitive and reckless, and therefore unforgivable” for ordering Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III’s Royal Army to “surrender without conditions.”
On Wednesday, during the Team PNoy’s rally here at the Rizal Park, Aquino said his government has not been found wanting for giving advice to Kiram’s group.
“Umuwi na kayo at isulong natin ang resonableng usapan ukol sa inyong mga hinaing ng tapat, may hinahon, at may bukas na pag-iisip,” he said addressing Kiram’s group.
For his part, Makabayan’s senatorial candidate Teddy Casiño said that it’s important for the Philippine government to call for the cessation of hostilities and the peaceful settlement of the Sultanate and the country’s claim on Sabah.
“By calling for the surrender of Kiram’s group, without conditions and echoing and justifying Malaysia’s militarist solution to the dispute, Aquino has basically dropped the country’s legitimate claim on Sabah,” said Casiño in a statement.
He was also disappointed that Aquino has been ignoring Kiram who only clarified that they want the government to claim Sabah. “They had been snubbed during the peace talks on Mindanao, and now they are being attacked by their own government for pursuing the centuries-old claim on Sabah,” Casiño said.
He said that it is for the country’s national interest that the government revived its claim over Sabah which is currently inhabited by 800,000 Filipinos and is reportedly rich in oil, gas and other natural resources.
“Taon taon po kailangan kong mag hanap ng isang milyon na trabaho para sa dumadagdag na labor force. Pag pinauwi ang 800,000 hindi natin mahahanapan nang trabaho sa isang linggo yan. Halos katumbas yon nang trabaho na ginagawa natin taon-taon,” Aquino said during the Davao rally.
The President also said that the issue and history of Sabah is complicated. “Subalit ang kasalukuyang usapin ay hindi sa kung sino ang tunay na nagmamay ari nito at kung sino ang karapatdapat na mamuno sa sultanato. Tungkol ito sa kaligtasan ng ating mga kababayan at pag titiyak na mailalayo sila sa gulo at piligro.”
But Casiño said that there are solid historical and legal grounds for reclaiming Sabah.
“The Philippine government must follow through on its official claim to the territory not only for the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu but for the Filipino people and the nation. It must not abandon our Filipino Muslim brothers and sisters on the island who considered Sabah as part of their ancestral domain,” he said.
Karapatan said Aquino’s posturing on the Sabah issue is “no different from the positions he has taken in behalf of the big transnational corporations, the landlords and the big business.”
It said that instead of speaking for the poor and marginalized Filipinos, Aquino has instead become the “spokesperson of all these interest groups.”
For the Sabah crisis to be resolved, Makabayan’s Casiño filed House Resolution 3042 which called for the investigation of the ongoing armed conflict between Malaysia and the Filipino Muslims. The resolution will also investigate the “propriety of the position taken by President Benigno Aquino III in supporting Malaysia and thereby undermining the Philippine claim on Sabah.”
Casiño and Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares also filed HR 3043 which aim to elevate the Sabah claim to the International Court of Justice which the country and Malaysia are both parties to.
On 16 July 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that the Philippine claim over Sabah is retained and may be pursued in the future.
Both Casiño and Colmenares said that the country has grounds, in all fronts, to revive its claim and reassert its sovereignty over Sabah, and the initiatives taken by Kiram provide this opportunity. They said Sabah was illegally annexed by Malaysia in 1963.
“Since the Sultanate of Sulu is not a State and may not make a claim to the ICJ, the Philippines should do so. After all, the Sultanate has been clear that they are not claiming Sabah for their own purposes but for the Philippines,” Casiño said.
He said that Aquino should reverse his pro-Malaysia and adversarial stand on Kiram’s acts reclaiming Sabah and elevate the country’s claim to the ICJ. (Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday.com