Sultan Kiram willing to face consequences
MANILA – Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III is willing to face the consequences of his actions that led to the standoff in the Malaysian territory of Sabah.
At a press conference in Taguig City, the sultan's daughter, Dayang Dayang Sitti Jacel Kiram, speaking in behalf of her father, said the sultanate respects President Benigno Aquino III's declaration that the sultan violated the constitution by sending armed men to Sabah. She, however, said the move is justifiable since the sultanate owns the land.
"Sultan Jamalul Kiram III did not commit crime when permission was granted to Raja Muda Agbimdduin Kiram (crown prince of the Sultan of Sulu) to go and peacefully settle in Sabah which is our home land," Jacel Kiram said.
"History proves that the sultan of Sulu has never been involved in any violence in its quest for justice. It is very inappropriate to label the sultan as a violent entity. As far as we are concerned, we haven’t committed a crime.
"The sultan of Sulu's action is a benevolent aspiration and not a violent reaction to fight what is historically, legally and morally right."
At a press conference in Malacañang on Tuesday, Aquino, addressing Kiram, said that the presence of the sultanate's armed followers in the disputed territory will not bring about a resolution to the long-standing issue.
Aquino also warned the sultan and his followers of possible violations of the constitution with their actions.
He cited Article II, Section 2 of the constitution which states that the Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy, the enabling law of which is Article 118 of the Revised Penal Code, which punishes those who "provoke or give occasion for a war…or expose Filipino citizens to reprisals on their persons or property."
Concrete agreement needed
Jacel Kiram said only a concrete agreement between the sultanate and the Malaysian government, with the Philippine government acting as witness, can make the crown prince and his followers leave Sabah.
The standoff has entered its third week and Malaysian forces are now reportedly keen on seeing its end.
"All this your excellency can be peacefully settled without threat, but in a diplomatic way. Is it hard for Malaysia to sit down to diplomatically settle the issue on the claim which has been recognized by no less than [then Malaysian Prime Minister] Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1963 as stated in the Manila Accord? All we ask for Malaysia is to sit down and come up with a win-win solution," Jacel Kiram said, addressing Aquino.
The Manila Accord refers to the agreement entered into by the Philippine government in 1963, under then President Diosdado Macapagal, for the peaceful settlement of the dispute.
The sultanate also cited the efforts undertaken by then President Ferdinand Marcos, who solicited its authority in pursuing the Sabah claim.
"This is to put in no doubt the diplomatic recognition of the Philippine government to the Sultanate of Sulu as the rightful owner of North Borneo," Jacel Kiram said.
Jacel Kiram also cited the Malaysian government's annual rent payment of 5,300 ringgit for Sabah as proof that their claim is legitimate.
The sultanate promised that its followers will not instigate violence, but said it is prepared to retaliate once provoked by Malaysian forces.
"In answer to your (Aquino) appeal, we also want peace. Our history is the basis that we did not wage war in the Philippines, unlike the other secessionist movements which went against the government after the Jabidah massacre in 1968 which is the basis now of peace process," Jacel Kiram said.
"Sultan Jamalul Kiram III pledges that my brother, Datu Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram and our followers will not initiate the violence, but we are prepared to defend our lives and our aspirations."