Ships deployed to block Kiram reinforcements
MANILA - Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said at least 10 vessels have been deployed to thwart moves to reinforce the group of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III currently in armed conflict with Malaysian security forces in Sabah.
Gazmin told radio dzRH, “What we are doing now is preventing the movement of people from our side, going to Malaysia (because the) followers of the Sultan (Jamulul Kiram III) may be sent as reinforcements to escalate the conflict.”
He said President Benigno Aquino III has already been discussing with him and other concerned officials ways to resolve the problem and “to bring back our people without any (further) incident.”
He said the defense and military establishment cannot meddle in the operations, but noted the government is coordinating with the Malaysians.
Meanwhile, former Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales said the government is not doing the right moves in responding to Kiram III and his followers.
"It appears that they are not reaching out to the Sultanate. You have to properly talk with the Sultanate," said Gonzales. He said threats such as the possible filing of criminal charges, which Malacanang is doing, is not the correct way to do it.
Asked if Aquino should be the one to talk to Kiram himself, Gonzales said: "No. The President does not need to talk (with Kiram). What the government should do is get a third party, a good third party is needed."
Gonzales said he went to see Kiram to check on his condition. He said they are close friends, with the sultan providing him sanctuary during the Marcos dictatorship.
He dismissed claims he was behind the Kiram group's moves in Sabah, adding he did not expect the conflict.
"I was surprised because you know the Sultanate is not espousing violence. I was surprised why they did that."