MANILA - President Benigno Aquino on Monday said international law, and not violence, should decide who really owns Sabah.
Aquino, in a press conference at the Palace, said the Philippines and Malaysia should settle the dispute based on rules.
"Nagkaroon na ng kaso sa International Court of Justice (ICJ)," he said.
The administration of then-President Diosdado Macapagal, in the 1960s, tried to bring the territorial dispute before the ICJ but it was opposed by Malaysia.
"We will explore all possibilities, we have always been and we will be for justice of everybody, but seeking justice also necessitates a certain process," Aquino added.
"Sinasabi nating meron tayong pagtatalo sa bansang karatig natin, nagtatalo tayo hindi sa tagisan ng lakas, nagtatalo tayo based on rules, based on the international law," he added.
"That should be the case here. That should be the means to solve this correctly and peacefully," Aquino said.
Talk with Najib
He said he talked to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak over the weekend to discuss the crisis.
Najib told Aquino that the armed followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his brother Agbimuddin "have crossed the line."
"Sinabi niya sa atin na talagang parang tumawid na sa linya," Aquino said. Iyung sa nangyari nga number one, hindi na raw pwede ang negotiations at that time dahil nagkaroon nga ng loss of life, lalo na sa parte ng Malaysians. At galit na galit raw ang kanilang mga kababayan."
Najib, according to the President, also reiterated that the Malaysian government tried resolving the crisis peacefully for 3 weeks.
"Pero dahil nga dito sa iyung pagdanak ng dugo at pagkawala ng buhay, eh talagang may isang linyang natawiran na at binigyan 'yung kanilang security forces ng authorization na tapusin na ang sitwasyon na ito," he said.
Aquino said Najib assured him that the estimated 800,000 other Filipinos who live in Sabah won't be affected by ongoing Malaysian security operations against the sultan's followers.
"Binigyan naman tayo ng assurance na 'yon ang pipilitin nila na mangyari," he said.
The Malaysian premier told Aquino that he has left to tactical commanders on the ground to decide when to end the crisis.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario is also heading to Malaysia to help resolve the standoff without loss of more lives.
"Makikipag-usap siya sa kanyang counterpart na foreign minister ng Malaysia. Susubukan pa rin nila na maghanap ng ibang solusyon. Para makalma nga yun sitwasyon para magkaroon ng katarungan. Para masigurado natin mapataas 'yung pag-asa na magkaroon ng solusyon na mas mapayapa. Ine-explore lahat ng possibilities," the President said.
No need to give Malaysia clearance
He said there is no need for Malaysia to ask the Philippines' approval to act on the sultan's armed followers.
"I don't think they asked our clearance. Pero on the same token, if Malaysians came to the Philippines and they were armed, and they were threatening any of our communities, will I go to Prime Minister Najib and ask his permission to deal with them?" he said.
"I don't think I need to seek his permission to execute the laws of our land. And in this case, they are administrating Sabah at this point in time. 'Yung I am sure that he feels that it is his responsibility to address this unlawful activity," he added.
Aquino and Najib also discussed other issues, including allowing the sultan and his followers to save face if they surrender.
"Siyempre 'yung idea ng saving face, 'yung hindi mapahiya. The idea of surrender. Nag-alok sila na... merong iba sa kanila na merong personal na relasyon dito sa mga involved na 'to at lalapitan nga para mag-explore kung anong mekanismo at paraan pa nga magkaroon ng katapusan itong kaguluhang ito," Aquino said.
He said Manila and Kuala Lumpur are working together to solve common problems such as the separatist unrest in Mindanao.
"Common problem na natin, bago tayo naupo, nagkaroon ng hostage-taking sa isang resort nila at dinala dito sa ating bansa. Iyung katahimikan ng Mindanao, makakatulong sa pagkakaron ng katahimikan sa kanilang lugar," the President said.
Abu Sayyaf bandits took foreign hostages in Sipadan, Malaysia in April 2000.