MANILA (1st UPDATE) - Malacañang said it has done what it could to prevent bloodshed in Lahad Datu.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the President has been informed of the reported airstrike staged by Malaysia against the sultan’s forces this morning in Lahad Datu.
He said he is leaving it up to the Department of Foreign Affairs to validate information about incidents and fatalities.
Upon his return from Malaysia, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario will be reporting to the President about his mission. Del Rosario’s aim was to ask Malaysia to exercise "maximum tolerance" towards the sultan’s forces.
"I think everyone knows that we have done everything possible and we continue to do everything possible to peacefully end this standoff. Unfortunately, the position taken by the Kiram family is a position that leads down to violence," Lacierda said.
Lacierda reiterated that the Palace has sent emissaries to the Kiram family since the standoff started. This includes Cabinet secretaries such as Presidential adviser on political affairs Ronald Llamas and national security adviser Cesar Garcia.
Police Director Cipriano Querol and ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman who are both Muslims, were also sent to convince the Kiram family to send their followers back to the Philippines.
Lacierda said the government’s appeal fell on "deaf ears."
"Hindi po tayo nagkulang po doon. Tatlong linggo po, patuloy na sinasabi po ng ating pamahalaan, ‘Mag-usap tayo pagkatapos n’yo bumalik.’ Ayaw po nila," he said.
The Palace said the fate of the sultan’s followers in Lahad Datu now rests on Raja Muda Kiram and his followers as Malaysia has previously warned that either they surrender or "face the consequences."
"The fate of the 180 people in Lahad Datu lies with those who continue to make defiant stand. Our position has not changed since Saturday morning so it’s with Raja Muda Kiram and his followers in Lahad Datu," Lacierda said.
The Palace declined to comment on why Malaysia decided to strike against the sultan’s followers.
“We are in no position to speculate on the actuations of the Malaysian government. What is clear however was that Malaysian blood has been spilled. Kung nangyari rin po sa atin ‘yan, we would also have taken some action,” Lacierda said.
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Lacierda also reacted to former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales who reportedly felt alluded to by the President’s reference yesterday to alleged "conspirators" in the Sabah tension.
“Guilty siya? The President never mentioned anybody. He said that ‘I will not name names until I have sufficient evidence.’ Meron ba siyang sinabi? Wala pong sinabi si Pangulong Aquino na pangalan. So hindi ko po alam kung bakit ang pakiramdam ni Ginoong Gonzales ay siya ang tinutukoy ni Pangulong Aquino.”
Lacierda said the Palace will release evidence of the collusion “at the proper time” as investigators collate evidence.
He said the Philippine Navy is conducting border patrol to prevent movements to Sabah allegedly aimed at reinforcing the forces of the sultan there.
Asked if the government will provide legal assistance to Raja Muda Kiram’s followers in Malaysia, Lacierda said this will be studied, adding that it is the practice of government to provide legal assistance to OFWs in distress.