Padilla urges PH gov't: Compel Malaysia to pay Sulu sultanate heirs for Sabah lease

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 09 2022 08:21 PM | Updated as of Aug 09 2022 08:48 PM

Sen. Robinhood Padilla, in a privilege speech Tuesday, August 9, 2022, appeals to the government to give attention to the descendants of the last Sultan of Sulu who recently won in the French arbitration court against Malaysia over Sabah claims. Senate PRIB
Sen. Robinhood Padilla, in a privilege speech Tuesday, August 9, 2022, appeals to the government to give attention to the descendants of the last Sultan of Sulu who recently won in the French arbitration court against Malaysia over Sabah claims. Senate PRIB

MANILA (UPDATE) — Sen. Robin Padilla touched on the sensitive topic of Sabah and the Malaysian government's failure to honor its lease agreement with the heirs of the Sulu sultanate, when he delivered his first privilege speech Tuesday.

Padilla said it has been almost a decade since the topic of "North Borneo" or Sabah was discussed in the Senate.

The first-time lawmaker said the Philippine government must help the heirs of the Sulu sultanate collect the $14.9 billion from Malaysia in compliance with the ruling of a French arbitral court that settled the dispute.

Malaysia has refused to recognize the ruling.

"Bilang mga Pilipino, karapat-dapat na tulungan ng buong kapangyarihan ng ating pamahalaan ang mga tagapagmana ng Sultanato ng Sulu katulad ng pagtulong nito sa kahit sinong mamamayan sa loob at labas ng bansa," Padilla said.

Padilla said he was disappointed with the Philippine government's "silence" over the issue.

"Bakit po tila napakatahimik natin? Bakit po parang walang tumutulong sa kanila?" he said. 

Padilla cited President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr.'s first State of the Nation Address, in which he said that he "will not preside over any process that will abandon even one square inch of the territory of the Republic of the Philippines to any foreign power."

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles has said Marcos has yet to articulate his position on the country's claim to Sabah after his declaration about not giving up a square inch of the country's territory.

Former presidential spokesman Harry Roque, Marcos' private counsel, has advised Marcos "to clarify whether the country will actively pursue this claim or allow the Sultanate heirs to negotiate privately with the Malaysian government."

Roque, who is knowledgeable in international law, praised the French court's decision, saying it "strengthens" the Philippines' claim to Sabah.

Padilla clarified though that he was only raising the issue on the lease agreement between Malaysia and the Sulu sultanate's heirs, and not the Philippines' territorial claim over Sabah.

"Mas gusto ko pong diinan sa ngayon yung paniningil sa napanalunan na ng Sultanate ng Sulu... Kapag dinala pa kasi natin sa usapin ng teritoryo, eh mahabang usapin na naman ito... Pero hindi ko sinasabing huwag natin itulak 'yun. Ang gusto kong sabihin ay 'yun ay hiwalay," he said. 

Interpellating Padilla, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III said that the governments of the Philippines and Malaysia could bring to the United Nations (UN) their respective claims to Sabah. 

"Being a responsible member of the United Nations, we should only use methods recognized by the UN for settling disputes between sovereign nations," Pimentel proposed.

"Since the Republic of the Philippines is confident enough that we can defend, sustain, and prove the ownership of the Sultanate of Sulu over this territory called Sabah or North Borneo, then we can challenge our friend, Malaysia, our neighbor Malaysia, if they are also confident enough... Then we should, with our consent, both countries consenting, submit the issue before the international courts of justice for final settlement," he added.

The Philippines lays claim over Sabah, citing a land lease agreement in 1878 between the Sultanate of Sulu and the British North Borneo Chartered Co.

Malaysia has governed Sabah while the Philippines continues to assert its claim. 

In 2013, Marcos, then a senator, acknowledged the Philippines' claim over Sabah since the 1960s. 

His father, the late President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., in September 1968, said the Philippines would pursue any peaceful means to stake its claims to Sabah and bring the issue to the International Court of Justice. 

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