DOJ mulls int'l court for Sabah dispute

Posted at 03/01/2013 7:32 PM

MANILA - The Sultanate of Sulu's claim on Sabah can be brought before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for resolution, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Friday.

She said dispute resolution via the ICJ is one of the options that the government is looking into to resolve the issue.

"Of course, there are international fora available so we're considering that," de Lima told media.

However, she said the ICJ option needs "very careful study."

"A decision to be made on this issue will entail several considerations. It's not just a purely legal question. We have to consider standing policies of the administration, including foreign policies," de Lima said.

A former Cabinet official earlier urged the Aquino administration to pursue the Philippines' claim on Sabah.

The Philippines has already filed a claim on Sabah before the ICJ, according to Amina Rasul, president of the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID).

She said the Sultanate of Sulu has a historical claim on Sabah, which was upheld in the 1939 ruling of Chief Justice C.F.C. Macaskie of the High Court of North Borneo.

"The Philippine Government should protect the proprietary rights of Sultan Jamalul Alam's heirs," she said.

De Lima, meanwhile, said the DOJ is "halfway" in assessing the Kiram clan's claim on Sabah.

She said the DOJ will issue a legal opinion on the issue soon.

"At first, I though I could finish it in a few days, but it's very complicated thing and we have to be very careful. There's a lot of research materials and documents we need to read. I'm already halfway doing the memorandum," de Lima said.

The situation in Sabah turned for the worse Friday after Kiram's armed followers attacked Malaysian troops, triggering a firefight that led to the death of at least 2 Malaysian police officers.

Kiram's followers have reportedly gone on the run.

The DFA is still validating a report that 10 followers of the sultan were killed in the shooting.