PNoy to Kiram: Bring your followers home
Kiram, et al to be investigated for possible violations
Kiram says ready to defend themselves
MANILA, Philippines - (2nd UPDATE) President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday asked Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to order his followers holed up in Lahud Datu in Sabah to return to the Philippines.
In a televised statement, Aquino called the refusal of Kiram's followers to leave Sabah a "hopeless cause," saying that it puts to risk their safety and that of Filipinos in Sabah.
“You are a leader of your clan, and every leader seeks the well-being of his constituents. These times require you to use your influence to prevail on our countrymen to desist from this hopeless cause,” he said.
“The action of these people purporting to be your followers, endangers more than just their own lives. They also put at risk our countrymen peacefully engaged in their livelihood in Sabah.”
Aquino said that he has ordered an investigation to look into possible violations committed by Kiram, his followers, and "collaborators."
“As President and chief executor of our laws, I have tasked an investigation into possible violations of laws by you, your followers, and collaborators engaged in this foolhardy act. May I remind you as well that as a citizen of the Republic, you are bound by the constitution and its laws,” he said.
“Among your possible violations is 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.’ Thus, you are now fully aware of the consequences of your actions.”
The government is looking into the possibility that Kiram is not acting alone and that somebody may be providing funds.
“We were given reports that they are not in very good financial condition. And we are also told that there are quite a large amount of money involved in ferrying people on launches from Tawi-tawi to Sabah. Hence, the first logical question would be: Where did the funding come from? And who is funding them? So it seems clear at this point but we are still collating evidence that this was not an action just on their part,” he said.
Dialogue with Kiram
Aquino said he was not able to read Kiram's letter sent through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) early in his term.
Aquino said the letter was buried under the “bureaucratic maze” but expressed openness to engage Kiram in a dialogue to discuss his grievances.
He said a dialogue could be arranged after Kiram is able to order his followers to return to the country.
"The avenue of peaceful and open dialogue is still available to us. Let us therefore sit down as brothers to address your grievances in a peaceful, calm manner according to our laws and according to correct processes when your people arrive home.
"And so this is my appeal to you: These are your people, and it behooves you to recall them. It must be clear to you that this small group of people will not succeed in addressing your grievances, and that there is no way that force can achieve your aims."
Aquino stressed that the Philippine and Malaysian governments want to resolve the standoff in Sabah peacefully, citing efforts of diplomatic and military officials to communicate with their Malaysian counterparts.
Aquino has also sent emissaries to the Kiram family “to ask them to convince the group in Lahad Datu to return home peacefully.”
The government has sent a “humanitarian ship” hoping to ferry Kiram’s followers back to the Philippines.
“What is clear is that a peaceful resolution of this issue is to everybody’s interest. Even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that there are legitimate grievances, the presence of an armed group in Lahad Datu will only bring us further away from resolving these issues,” he said.
Aquino won’t say yet if the Philippines will press its Sabah claim pending the results of a study being conducted by the Palace legal team.
Aquino said the Sabah question is a “complex” one.
“Can I study the material that was given to me first precisely to determine how strong our claim is,” he said.
Kiram also wants peace
Meantime, in a statement read by his daughter, Kiram III said his followers would not incite violence but were prepared to defend themselves.
"Mr. President, I, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, pledges that my brother Datu Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram and our followers will not initiate the violence and signed it with the blood and that of my brothers. But we are prepared to defend our lives and our aspiration," the sultan's daughter, Princess Jacel Kiram, read from a statement at a news conference at their residence in Manila.
Kiram said an accord signed in 1963 between the then-leaders of the Philippines and Malaysia was proof that the latter recognised the former's claims to North Borneo.
"Mr. President, what more proof do you want us to show that Sabah is ours, by the mere fact that Malaysia is paying us annually in the amount of 5,300 Malaysian ringgit. Is it not enough," the princess said, referring to an arrangement that stretches back to the British colonial period which stipulates that Malaysia pays a token amount to the Sulu sultanate each year for the "rental" of Sabah.
Kiram said the Sulu sultan was committed to a peaceful resolution, seeking diplomatic negotiations with Malaysia.
"History proves that the Sultan of Sulu has never been involved in any violence in its quest for justice. It is very inappropriate to level the Sultan of Sulu as violent entity. As far as we are concerned, we haven't committed a crime," Jacel said.
"The Sultanate of Sulu will face the consequences if we violated laws," said Abraham Idjirani, spokesperson for former sultanate Jamalul Kiram III
Malaysian police have surrounded the coastal village of Lahad Datu, preventing locals and media from entering the village. -- with a report from Reuters