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Aquino throwing Sulu sultan’s people to the wolves

As published in The Manila Times, March 1, 2013

Malaysian Home Minister inspecting his troops surrounding Filipino Muslims in Sabah

IF violence erupts in Lahad Datu town in Sabah, and the Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram 3rd’s men are massacred, the blood will be on President Aquino’s hands. His statements and those of his spokespersons have thrown the Muslim Filipinos standing their ground in Sabah to the wolves.Mr. Aquino should have emphasized publicly that they have a legitimate aim although their means to achieve these are inappropriate, at the very least, and would only weaken their cause.

Instead, the president and his spokespersons have been questioning their motives (that they are being used by saboteurs of the peace talks), that they are being financed by hidden powers, that their claim to Sabah is moribund, and they are violating the Constitution— not of Malaysia— but of the Philippines.

Has Mr. Aquino become the spokesperson not even of the Malaysian prime minister but a lower ranking official, Minister Datuk Hussein who’s been preparing his forces to attack our countrymen?

Even our “home minister,” Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd seems to be speaking for the Malaysians, saying the other day that they “are running out of patience.” How would he know what the Malaysians are feeling?

I had to check several times if I was reading a statement of the Malaysian home minister, or according to the news report, that of Mr. Aquino:

“If you choose not to co­operate, the full force of the laws of the state will be used to achieve justice for all who have been put in harm’s way. This is a situation that cannot persist. You should order your followers to return home peacefully.”

What more justification would the Malaysians need to storm and massacre the Filipino Muslims in Sabah? “If it is your president himself who is saying that the full force of the law should be used against you, who are we to argue?” the Malaysian must be saying, and laughing at our political leadership.

Malaysian newspapers naturally have highlighted Aquino’s statements, which could be the prelude to attack on the Sultan’s forces in Sabah. The Borneo Post yesterday had a long front­page article on Aquino’s statements, a part of which read:

“Aquino, flanked by his interior and justice secretaries, also warned the sultan that he might have broken laws, including one banning citizens from inciting war that carries a maximum prison term of 12 years.

Aquino cautioned the sultan that he could not expect to test the Malaysian government’s patience indefinitely without repercussions.”

Why did Aquino need to broadcast to the world these statements? Couldn’t he have just privately told the Sultan or his brother Raja Muda Kiram (who is actually on the ground in Sabah) about his government’s position? If media people could at will call both, why couldn’t Aquino do so to talk to them?

Aquino made a secret trip to Tokyo in 2011 to touch base for a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which cost at least a million pesos as publicity­seeking Cabinet members tagged along with him. Aquino even recently went to their stronghold in Sultan Kudarat to launch a socio­economic project controlled by the MILF.

That cost the government at least a million pesos for the necessary security arrangements, which included helicopter gunships patrolling the area and a full Army infantry battalion mobilized as a reserve force in the area.

Why couldn’t Aquino go to the Sulu Sultan’s home—in Taguig City—to appeal to him to order his followers back to Sulu? Secretary Roxas runs around like crazy to be photographed “on the scene” for every crisis that has been breaking out—even meeting victims of the Amalilio pyramid scam. Yet he couldn’t even talk to the Sulu Sultan?

To his credit, Vice President Jejomar Binay the other day took the initiative to talk to the Sultan, and his statement to the press about it is the most appropriate:

“He explained to me their position and I listened to him. Then I reiterated my position of the Philippine government and renewed my appeal for sobriety. I emphasized that the parties should make all efforts to arrive at a peaceful resolution.”

The Sabah crisis involves another state, and therefore requires the involvement of our diplomatic officials. But where is Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario, who keeps pontificating to the Chinese, “What’s ours is ours”?  Why doesn’t he issue a statement that our Sabah claim is still in the books, and repeat his favorite line with regards to the Spratleys dispute with China, that we will pursue all peaceful means to claim “what’sours”?

Aquino says he is still studying the validity of our Sabah claim, which is becoming his favorite line (he’s still studying the NBI report on the Atimonan massacre). Why doesn’t he just comply with his solemn oath as President to execute all of the laws of the Republic, which in this case involves Republic Act No. 5446 enacted in 1968, which wasn’t repealed?  One of this law’s provisions:

“Section 2. The definition of the baselines of the territorial sea of the Philippine Archipelago as provided in this Act is without prejudice to the delineation of the baselines of the territorial sea around the territory of Sabah, situated in North Borneo, over which the Republic of the Philippines has acquired dominion and sovereignty.” (Emphasis mine)

Prominent Muslims like his handpicked appointee acting ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman, and Abdusakur Tan, governor of the Sultan’s home province Sulu, should have been flanking Aquino in his press conference the other day, so they can appeal to the Sultan of Sulu to order his men to back down. Del Rosario should have been there to assure us that he is in continuous touch with his counterpart to appeal for a peaceful resolution to the crisis. But he’s nowhere.

Who did Aquino have with him in his press conference? Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and National Police Commission chairman Mar Roxas—officials who would be with him for a press conference about an Abu Sayyaf kidnapping. The message Aquino was in effect sending to the Sultan: “Go home, we will throw the books at you, and Roxas’ policemen will arrest you.” Do you think the Sultan— or the Malaysians—failed to get the message?

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