Statement of Kawagib on the Sabah Issue

Kawagib-Alliance for the Advancement of Moro Human Rights denounces the military action being taken by Malaysian security forces against the followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III in Lahad Datu in Sabah, Malaysia.

The assault carried out Friday, which claimed the lives of twelve of those Filipinos, was deplorable and a complete disregard of diplomatic options that were still at hand. Both Malaysian and Philippine authorities fell short of preventing the needless bloodshed and continue to demonstrate callousness towards the lives of the people at stake. 

We particularly decry the Philippine government for failing to tackle the incident competently and for denying our countrymen the protection naturally provided by sovereign states to its citizens.

President Benigno Aquino III appears more as a spokesperson of the Malaysian authorities than president of this country. The pompous stance he and his officials have taken accentuate this government’s indifference to the plight of the Moro people.

Why can’t Aquino even guarantee the safety of those Filipinos involved as a modest precondition to their cooperation with the authorities? Instead, he chooses to take a stand that echoes that of the Malaysian prime minister. It looks as if he is acting on directives from the Malaysians than someone expected to protect the welfare of the citizens of this country above all else.

Aquino’s threat of having Kiram and his supporters prosecuted during the earlier stage of the standoff certainly did not help resolve the situation and undermined peaceful options in the offing.

One cabinet official was even so imprudent and uncaring to comment, “matigas kasi ang ulo,” referring to Kiram’s group, when news of the assault came out.

The reaction of the Aquino administration to the whole incident reflects its failure to understand and acknowledge legitimate concerns of the Moro people. It could have been prudent in handling the situation, at its onset, if it truly recognizes the historical and legal rights of the Bangsamoro.

The heirs of the Sulu Sultanate put forward a legitimate issue that should be a matter of national concern. The dismissive policy taken by the Aquino administration on the issue exposes its pretense over the Spratlys, where the president seemed unyielding and patriotic. The territorial dispute with China serve pretext to the ever increasing military presence of the US in the Philippines under the auspices of the Visiting Forces Agreement.

The government with Malaysia must open formal dialogue on the Sabah claim if both parties are serious on ushering durable peace in Mindanao.