‘ Bizarre’ standoff in Sabah

Jamalul Kiram III. AP photo by Aaron Favila.

One report described the current standoff in Sabah as “bizarre”.

Bizarre indeed. The Philippines claims ownership of Sabah based on the title of the Sultan of Sulu on the territory. The heirs of Sultan of Sulu who obtained the land are taking possession of a portion of the area. The Philippine government said it has nothing to with the the action of the heirs.

The reaction of the Philippine government is bizarre if one takes it from the presumption that the Philippines is not abandoning its claim over Sabah.

But if there’s one thing that this “bizarre” incident has made clear, the Philippines is no longer interested to pursue its claim over Sabah.

The state of Sabah, with an area of 76,115 square kilometers, is the second largest member of the Federation of Malaysia. Of the more than 600,000 Filipinos in Malaysia, majority are in Sabah, most of them undocumented.

The Philippines claims ownership of Sabah based on the title of the Sultan of Sulu. Historical records state that in 1704, North Borneo, which includes Sabah, was given to the Sultan of Sulu by the Sultan of Brunei for helping him quell a rebellion.

In 1878, the Sultan of Sulu leased the territory to the British North Borneo Company. It was included when the Federation of Malaysia was formed in 1963.

The Philippine government, then under President Diosdado Macapagal brought the issue to the United Nations. In an UN-supervised referendum in 1963, majority of the people of Sabah preferred to be part of Malaysia.

But when Ferdinand Marcos became president, he tried to “retake” Sabah through Operation Merdeka which failed.

Relations between the Philippines and Malaysia became strained and only “normalized” during the administration of Fidel Ramos, who signed an agreement during a state visit to establish a consulate in Kota Kinabalu to take care of the numerous Filipinos in Sabah.

Ramos, however, was warned by his legal advisers that establishing a consulate in Sabah, which was eagerly encouraged by Malaysian officials, was tantamount to dropping the Sabah claim, which would violate the Constitution.

A consulate is established by a government only in a foreign country, not in its own territory.
Earlier, then Sen. Leticia Shahani filed a bil defining the Philippine baselines which didn’t mention Sabah. Shahani didn’t pursue the bill after it was widely criticized as an attempt to drop the Sabah claim.

The 2009 Philippine Baseline Law does not include Sabah but the Department of Foreign Affairs said “its non-inclusion in the country’s baseline does not mean dropping the Philippine claim on Sabah because it is reiterated in the new law that it does not prejudice the country’s claim to Sabah. “

Under the Estrada administration, another irritant with Malaysia arose when President Estrada received the wife of the detained Malaysia’s former Finance Minister Anwar Ibrahim during his state visit.

The idea of setting up a consulate in Kota Kinabalu was revived during the Arroyo administration, which enlisted the help of Malaysia in brokering talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. But like what happened during the Ramos administration the Sabah consulate idea fizzled out.

Reports said the armed supporters of Jamalul Kiram III, the current Sultan of Sulu started arriving in the seaside village of Tanduao in Lahad Datu in Sabah Feb. 12. That was also the time that Moro National Liberation Front forces were shooting it out with Abu Sayaff and the military just shrugged it off. Bizarre.

Kiram was quoted in news reports as saying that he was prompted to send the group to Sabah after his Sultanate was left out in the framework of agreement being worked out by the government with the MILF which would establish an autonomous Muslim area in Mindanao.

Malacanang said it is not condoning what the Kiram group is doing in asserting their claim over Sabah. Palace spokespersons described the Philippine claim on Sabah as “dormant.”

Like a dormant volcano, it could wake up from its slumber and explode.

Hoping and praying that the this Sabah issue is handled intelligently and doesn’t go beyond “bizarre.”

February 19, 2013 11:48 pm  Tags: ,   Posted in: Foreign Affairs, Malaya

186 Responses

  1. chi - February 20, 2013 8:44 am

    Dormant claim, ganun na lang? Naniniwala ako na iniwan ni Pnoy sa peace process ang Sultanate of Sulu sa pag-aakalang hindi aalma ang sultanate.

    Pnoy should make a stand on Sabah claim huwag magtago sa rason na dormant issue ito at hintayin na sumabog sa paghu-juramentado ng mamamayan ng sultanate.

  2. pranning - February 20, 2013 8:59 am

    20 February 2013

    That’s a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. A very tricky, yet highly political issue that should really be given a deep thought.

    The problem started when the government negotiated with the MNLF early in the 1970′s. It got worsen, when in 1986 or was it 1987, when then late President Cory Aquino, suspended the Sabah claim, and then put in the freezer by the administrations of Tabako, Bigote and when then when the leprechaun in red tapped the Malaysians to broker the peace negotiations between the GPH and MILF, who of course will accept their role to protect their interest in Sabah.

    That’s when the issue on Sabah failed

    That’s when everything got more complicated.

    Then during the peace talks, no mention of Sultan Kiram’s role in the talks, until the aborted signing of the MOA-AD. Then comes the signing of framework agreement.

    Let’s say it gets escalated, what will our government do to protect our Muslim brothers who are already in Sabah.

    And, Finally, we should really press London to be in the picture, because if not for their BEI Company which incorporated the territory leased to them, this mess will not happen.

    Bottomline, many of our people are put in the dark in this situation, whether Christians or Muslims.

    It is time that we the Filipino People, imploring the Aid of Divine Providence should Act as One and not Fragmented people of the country.



  3. vic - February 20, 2013 9:36 am

    I do not believe the KL government will give in to this type of “blackmail” and whoever is financing this dangerous expedition will soon find out they might have to wash lot of blood off their hands. Hope it will not come to that point and sanity will prevail. but you can not just send armed men to another one sovereign country unless you are ready to use those arms…it is not a game.

  4. chi - February 20, 2013 9:19 pm


    Happy birthday, Ellen!

  5. chi - February 21, 2013 1:12 am

    Trillanes asks gov’t:
    Disclose Sabah policy
    By Norman Bordadora, Philippine Daily Inquirer

    Reelectionist Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Wednesday called on the Aquino administration to make known its policy on the country’s claim to Sabah and on the standoff between Malaysian security forces and a group of armed followers of the sultan of Sulu in the eastern Malaysian territory. http://www.inquirer.net

  6. joeseg - February 21, 2013 2:54 am

    Maligayang kaarawan, Ellen!

  7. Jake Las Pinas - February 21, 2013 9:33 am

    My question – Is the Sultan claiming Sabah as a Filipino citizen? If not , why should we be involved?

  8. arvin - February 21, 2013 10:29 am

    Magulo talaga sa Mindanao.

  9. chi - February 21, 2013 11:48 pm

    I know in person Ibrahim Idjirani, the secgen of the Sultanate of Sulu and brother-in-law of Jamalul Kiram 111. Matagal na when he showed us, his friends, the original rental documents and how much Malaysia rents Sabah.

    Nagulo talaga ng isinama ng British gov’t ang Sabah when it freed Malaysia from its rule, documented din ito. Now GB does not want to do anything to correct it.

    Hindi pakakawalan ng Malaysia ang Sabah dahil super rich sa natural resources ito. Karugtong nito ang Borneo na ang King ay pinsan ng mga Kiram.

  10. chi - February 21, 2013 11:52 pm

    Ang isang gulo pa, napakarami sa magpipinsang Kiram ang nag-aagawan sa trono, but it is the sector of Jamalul Kiram 111 that is recognized by the Pinas gov’t since Pres. Diosdado Macapagal as proved by the article above.

    Might be that if the many cousins claiming Sabah will unite, something would give in.

  11. batangpasig - February 22, 2013 1:08 pm

    Well I hope the MNLF especially Misuari, MILF, and Abu Sayyaf all join the Kiram family in Sabah to re-establish ownership of that piece of Borneo.

  12. chi - February 22, 2013 10:26 pm

    Actually, FVR almost presented the Kirams in a called conference for the reclaim of Sabah when minutes before it happened, Malaysia called, ayun kaput.

  13. chi - February 22, 2013 11:27 pm

    I am now thinking that what FVR did was just to calm the Kirams, drama lang talaga kasi uminit ang mga claimants and wanted him to do something to reclaim Sabah. Present pa nun si Cong. Abbas and other Muslim leaders, tapos tawag lang ng Malaysia umatras sya sa presentation of claimants. Meaning, FVR really did not intend to pursue the claim.

  14. Jake Las Pinas - February 23, 2013 3:09 am

    Didnt FVRs dad, the former SFA lose the original Sabah lease document while he was in England?

  15. chi - February 23, 2013 7:53 am

    I don’t know that part of the story, JLP.

  16. chi - February 23, 2013 8:26 am

    Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told reporters yesterday that the Sulu sultanate’s claim to Sabah may have legal grounds, as Malaysia continues to pay rent to the sultanate for use of the territory used to be known as North Borneo.

  17. Jake Las Pinas - February 23, 2013 11:13 pm

    Im with you on that batangpasig. Let malaysia have a taste of the medicine they had given us since the late 60s.

    Maybe all that the Sultan of Sulu want is to be recognized as one of the Sultans of Borneo and live like a Sultan like his cousin in Brunei. Eh mas malaki pa ang renta ng isang condo sa makati! Parang hindi yata tama.

  18. patria adorada - February 24, 2013 9:21 pm

    no lo intiendo kung bakit pinaglalaban yong bato sa west phil. sea pero parang ayaw ng gobierno natin ipaglaban ang sabah nalegal naman sa atin.

  19. chi - February 24, 2013 11:26 pm

    patria, parehong mayaman sa natural resources ang bato at Sabah kaya ayaw pakawalan ng China at Malaysia. In disguise of peace, karuwagan na ang ginagawa ng gobyernong Pinas not making a stand on Sabah. Buti pa si Mackoy umaksyon, nabuko lang may nagtraydor kasi.

    Kung tutuusin ay hindi complicated ang issue ng Sabah kasi kumpleto sa historical documents at nirirentahan pa ito ng Malaysia sa mga Kiram. Dapat ilaban ito ng Pinas, not making peace with MILF as an excuse.

  20. Ellen - February 25, 2013 6:11 pm

    #19, Patria Adorada, that’s why it’s really bizarre.

  21. Ellen - February 25, 2013 6:12 pm

    #6, Thank you, Joeseg.

  22. TonGuE-tWisTeD - February 27, 2013 11:20 am

    “It’s just a Moro-moro, you morons” – Tongue in, anew.

  23. Golberg - February 28, 2013 1:50 pm

    Sa puntong ito o sa usaping ito, pwede nang tawaging “Pang-gulo” si PNoy hindi lang Pangulo.

    Nawala daw yung sulat ng ibinigay sa kanya nung 2010 pa lang. Kung mayroon pa kayang ibang sumulat, mawala din kaya? O iwala nila?

    Taon ng mga AHAS ngayon. Marami talagang ahas na nagkalat.

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