Start indicting those responsible for Sabah bloodshed
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2013-03-05

The March 2 early afternoon press conference at Malacanang Palace revealed hitherto unknown contacts between the President Benigno S. Aquino III (P-Noy) government and Sultan Jamalul Kiram and his family. Per Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, immediately after the Sabah crisis started, Secretaries Ronald Llamas (Political Adviser) and CP Garcia (National Security Adviser) touched base with the Kiram family. There were efforts at various levels to maintain contact with the Kirams.

We must wonder why messaging Secretary Ricky Carandang failed to report on these meetings. We must wonder why Abigail Valte kept denying that there have been on-going contacts between the government and the Sultanate of Sulu. P-Noy has unnecessarily been on the receiving end of brickbats accusing him of snubbing the Sultanate.

In the wake of the bloodshed in Sabah, those responsible for it should be held accountable. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima previously mentioned the applicable charge per Philippine laws — that of inciting to war. The pronouncements of Sultan Kiram and his relatives and their call for support from other fellow Filipinos to press their claim against Malaysia could be cited as basis for such an indictment. If the call ended in armed conflict with casualties, then inciting to war is justified.

Media persons who promoted these lines of the Sultanate could also be considered as responsible and indicted if basis is established. Were they reporting only what they heard or were they actively promoting the cause of the Sultanate, which is beyond their call of duty as journalists? Add Robin Padilla to the list for calling on Filipinos to support the adventurers in Sabah. Padilla should first go to Sabah and make his call from there while supporting the royal claim. Over there he’ll know the difference between screenplay and a real firefight.

They have all willfully jeopardized Philippine national interest and our good relations with Malaysia. Not only that, they’ve put at risk the over 800,000 Filipinos living and working in Sabah. This issue isn’t whether P-Noy has the guts to stand up to Malaysia and press the Sabah claim. P-Noy has stood up to China’s bullying and was globally hailed for doing so. You cannot accuse this president of lacking in guts.

The issue is whether it’s in our best national interest to bring the Sabah issue to the table while our MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) peace accord is being facilitated by Malaysia. The issue is whether we are willing to lose Malaysian support in ASEAN, as it is key to our conflict with China. The issue is whether it’s a responsible act of statesmanship to engage Malaysia in what could become a belligerent situation when we don’t have the military, naval and air force to match that of Malaysia. The issue is whether there’s wisdom in pursuing the Sabah claim at this time when both the US and UK have doused water on it.

The issue is whether it’s a good decision to pursue a Sabah claim that’s now riddled full of holes by historical events. In 1977, likely with US prodding, Dictator Ferdinand Marcos renounced all Philippine claims to Sabah. Whether we like the dictatorship or not, it’s still considered the valid Philippine government at that time and that act binds us to renounce our claims to Sabah. That’s also why we could not avoid paying for all the loans of the Marcos dictatorship as some quarters suggested we do in 1986. Then by the Kiram family’s own admission, they recalled in 1989 from the Philippine government the 1962 ceding of the Sabah claim. So, what’s there to fight for?

This Kiram occupation of Sabah has a perfect historical parallel — the 1745 Scottish Jacobite Rebellion following the return to Scotland of Scottish throne claimant Bonnie Prince Charles Edward Stuart. With just a shipload of arms and no French troops to support the rebellion, the more sober headed clan chiefs told Prince Charlie to go home in France. Bonnie Prince Charlie replied: “I am home.” His homecoming was paid for with Scottish blood. The 1745 Jacobite Rebellion ended with a Scottish defeat at the Battle of Culloden. Ruthless persecution was the aftermath of Culloden. The Scottish clan system was never the same again.

Prince Charlie’s claim had been overtaken by historical events — most notably the 1603 Union of the Crowns of Scotland and England, the very basis for calling the country the United Kingdom. The tragedy of Culloden and its bitter aftermath of persecution could have all been avoided if Prince Charlie had a better appreciation of history — what events could and couldn’t be reversed. His misadventure not only failed to reverse the tide of Scottish history but also nearly obliterated Scottish culture.

Sabah is FOOL’S GOLD and we should think very carefully before investing national goodwill and foreign relations for the pursuit of it. It’s bad enough to waste time and energy in the pursuit of fool’s gold. It’s unconscionable to shed precious Filipino blood while pursuing it. Let’s not allow ourselves to be driven by emotion to emulate the misadventure of Scotland’s Bonnie Prince Charlie who only had a dream with him and hardly anything else with which to attain it.

Let’s focus on the other beautiful horizons unfolding here.

* * *

Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

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A great disservice to P-Noy

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