PH's Sabah claim and Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte

PH's Sabah claim and Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte

 

The Daily Tribune’s commentary last August 9, 2020 was very apt and timely as the issue has been awakened again by the exchanges between Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. when he called out the attention of the US Embassy over its issued statement that Sabah is allegedly the territory of Malaysia.

Of course his counterpart did not took the statement lightly and issued a warning that it will make the Philippine envoy to report to him, to which Locsin called the same threat by calling out the Malaysian envoy in the Philippines.

In the commentary, it presented the history of Sabah in relation to both the Philippines and Malaysia, from the “from the Bruneian Empire in the 17th century until the British-based North Borneo Chartered Company in the 19th century leased the land from Sulu Sultan Baraduddin Kiram. The company milked its land of its resources for an annual lease of 5,000 Malaysian dollars — an amount that remains to be contested by the heirs of the Sultanate.

Commentary picture from Daily Tribune

Sabah was leased from the Tausug Sultan because it was not part of the territories occupied by the British then. The contract was Britain’s recognition of the Sultanate of Sulu’s sovereignty over the island.”

And the efforts done by the Philippine government since the 1950’s “when then Congressman Diosdado Macapagal filed a resolution for its claim with fellow lawmakers Arturo Tolentino, Arsenio Lacson and Hadji Gulamu Rasul, uncle of the present Wazir or Sultanate Prime Minister Amroussi Rasul.

Macapagal was consistent in his desire to reclaim Sabah when he revived the effort in 1962.

Then President Macapagal also received the sovereign rights passed by the Sultanate of Sulu to the Philippine government in 1962.”

And the eventual “abandonment by then President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino, who had taken the official Malaysian position to break the stalemate” in 2013 when some 200 plus armed Tausugs went to Sabah.

Hope sprung when Mindanaoan President Rorigo Roa Duterte came to power in Malacanang, because not only he made it a campaign promise about the Sabah calim, he has the “political will” to bring back Malaysia in the negotiating table about the issue.

 

For the complete quote of the article, please see below.

 

Six years were long to remain silent.

Each day that passed was like a knife in the hearts of the people of Sulu, who have been stripped of their land and lots of opportunities by a transgression in history.

Now, they are crying to have the island of Sabah back. It has been a fight carried on by the Tausug people over centuries.

Sabah was conceived by war and gratitude. But its people were left orphans by greed and deceit — by Britain, by Japan, by Malaysia, by our own Filipino leaders.

Now, they want Sabah back. And the modern world must recognize their claim as it did with the other tribes and indigenous groupings. Because Sabah rightfully belongs to the Sultanate of Sulu and its people.

Sabah was a gift to the Sultanate in gratitude to its people who helped a Bornean leader win a war. It was received by and annexed to Sulu when even the most vicious warriors were true gentlemen to honor each other’s words.

There were no contracts then. No letters to make pacts official.

What they had was a common blood, drank from a cup before giving each other what could today be an equivalent to a “bro hug.”

But then, almost each and every country in this side of the previously “undiscovered” world were found, conquered and subjugated by foreign armies. They claimed our lands as their own.
Those lands they had failed to conquer, they deceived by forging facts which were either one-sided or were completely misleading.

Through these, the Sultanate of Sulu — then untouched and free — had expanded its land.

Sabah never fell into a foreign army’s hands. Its Tausug warriors have never been defeated in war.

The Sultanate of Sulu acquired the island from the Bruneian Empire in the 17th century until the British-based North Borneo Chartered Company in the 19th century leased the land from Sulu Sultan Baraduddin Kiram. The company milked its land of its resources for an annual lease of 5,000 Malaysian dollars — an amount that remains to be contested by the heirs of the Sultanate.

Sabah was leased from the Tausug Sultan because it was not part of the territories occupied by the British then. The contract was Britain’s recognition of the Sultanate of Sulu’s sovereignty over the island.

The lease was also without increments, a contract that was exploited by Malaysia later on.

When World War II broke out, Japan had occupied Sabah as it did the whole Philippines for three years. It was the first time Sabah had come under a foreign army’s hands.

That war had shaken the world order.

New countries rose. Communist Russia had claimed a large swath of Europe and Asia. Korea had subsequently split.

The British Crown Colony had also taken over Sabah in 1946. All these years, however, the Sultanate of Sulu had not relinquished its ownership and sovereignty over the island.

On 31 August 1963, the British had mistakenly granted self-government to Sabah. It could not “free” the island that was not its colony nor its property.

The Philippine claim to Sabah, however, came much earlier — even before it was taken by Malaysia.

The country has long been seeking to reclaim the island as early as 1950 when then Congressman Diosdado Macapagal filed a resolution for its claim with fellow lawmakers Arturo Tolentino, Arsenio Lacson and Hadji Gulamu Rasul, uncle of the present Wazir or Sultanate Prime Minister Amroussi Rasul.

Macapagal was consistent in his desire to reclaim Sabah when he revived the effort in 1962.

Then President Macapagal also received the sovereign rights passed by the Sultanate of Sulu to the Philippine government in 1962.

But it strained the country’s relations with Malaysia, which came to form as a federation only in 1963, another proof that it never had a historical grip on the island from the start.

The claim stayed alive even after Macapagal, as the late President Ferdinand Marcos entertained thoughts of recovering the island from the newly-federated Malaysia.

Macapagal also established the Office of North Borneo Affairs within the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). It was once led by former Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez who was also then concurrent Foreign Affairs Secretary. The DFA arm was mothballed from the time of the late President Cory Aquino.

The claim to Sabah was given lip service from then on.

A misadventure by temporary Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III made matters worse for the Sultanate in 2013. He had sent some 230 Tausug warriors to Sabah as a show of force, but initially for talks. They were met with tremendous firepower from the threatened Malaysian Army, though, resulting in the death of 60 Filipino Muslims.

The worst part of that sojourn was their abandonment by then President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino, who had taken the official Malaysian position to break the stalemate.

He was never forgiven by the people of Sulu for that.

While Jamalul III died of natural causes months after that incursion on Sabah, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chief Nur Misuari had proclaimed the Tausug people’s independence in Zamboanga months after that.

Misuari is not far from the Sultanate of Sulu. He was married to two sisters who are in the bloodline of the royal family.

The clashes caused the displacement of more than 100,000 people, the occupation of several villages by the MNLF, deaths of several civilians, closure of the Zamboanga International Airport, and a reduction of economic activity in the city — more blackeyes to the incompetent PNoy leadership.

Malaysia has stopped payment of its annual lease to the Sultanate of Sulu since that unfortunate 2013 event. But that it did for so long since 1963, the Sultanate says it was enough recognition of the Sulu people’s sovereignty.

The Sultanate believes President Rodrigo Duterte can bring Malaysia back to the table. He has the strong leadership and will to make it happen.

Sabah was among the President’s campaign promises, anyway.

The Tausugs believe Duterte acts his words. That he does not pay lip services like his predecessors.

 

 

 

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