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Bacolod City, PhilippinesSaturday, March 9, 2013
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From the Center
with Rolly Espina

Leaving citizens in
others' hands

Rolly Espina

Sultan Ramalul Kiram III declared a unilateral ceasefire in response to the call of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for an end to violence in Sabah. There, already 60 have been killed in a series of deadly clashes between Malaysian forces and armed followers of Sultan Kiram who are called the Royal Sultanate Army.

He had asked his brother, Agbimuddin Kiram, to go into a defensive stand in Lahad Datu of Sabah.

Adhimuddin led some 300 men to settle in Sabah and assert sovereignty over the territory.

Malaysia, however, has rejected the Kiram ceasefire offer.

The only hope now is for the United Nation's deployment of a buffer force. Emmanuel Fontanilla, MNLF spokesman, said the sultanate's men may be forced to fight back if the Malaysians try to finish them off once and for all.

But the Philippine government, which had been expected to explore peaceful initiatives to settle the issue, reportedly had pronounced that the government is taking pains to file a case or cases against Sultan Kiram for his unilateral act of sending his men to Sabah despite efforts of emissaries to stop him from doing it.

In short, the government virtually leaves Kiram no room to maneuver. Instead, it also released a statement that they will send him for trial later to Malaysia as soon as the cases against him have been tried in the Philippines.

President Benigno Aquino III had earlier accused certain elements of having influenced the Kirams to undertake the disastrous entry into Sabah which the Sultanate claims had been ceded to them by the Sultan of Brunei. This was later sold by the British North Borneo Oil Company to Britain although the Malaysian government continued to pay the sultanate the nominal amount of only a few thousands ringgits in an apparent payment of lease.

The term used was interpreted a usufruct, but it has been considered as sale. In short, that continued payment of royalties to the sultanate was considered as still an acknowledgement that the property belongs to them, and, by inference, the sovereignty belongs to the Philippine government.

But certain historical facts, however, forced the Philippines to place the claim over Sabah in the backseat.

Stories of maltreatment of Filipinos in Sabah had prompted the Sultan to send his followers Sabah to help his poor people evade mistreatment by their fellow Malaysians.

There are talks that some outside forces must have tried to fund the expedition into Sabah, most likely because of the coming elections in Malaysia that also threatens the coalition of Prime Minister Jajib Razak.

That is apparently the reason why the Philippine President is trying so hard to Sultanate to bring back its forces from Malaysia but to no avail.

What is why it has become almost combative against its own citizens to force the issue of their return to the Philippines.*


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