From the get-go of the Sabah incident, President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III appeared to be too accommodating to Malaysia. Recently, a news account reported that P-Noy was bent on extraditing Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his Tausug followers to Malaysia despite the absence of an extradition treaty between the two countries. The news report attributed the story to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima who bared plans by Malacañang to surrender Kiram to Malaysian authorities. But what is strange is that the Malaysian government has yet to make a request for the extradition of Kiram!
The truth of the matter is: Malaysia’s Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail is just toying with the idea when he told the media that he would seek a request for the extradition of Kiram “should a case be made against him.”
Meanwhile, his Philippine counterpart, Justice Secretary de Lima, said that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is in the process of building “airtight cases” against Kiram and his followers. She did not elaborate; however, many people have been wondering what Philippine laws did Kiram violate that would warrant filing criminal charges against him?
Inciting to war?
For starters, de Lima mentioned “inciting to war” as an applicable charge against Kiram. But would it not go without saying that a person could only be guilty of “inciting to war” if the Philippines had indeed gone to war against Malaysia, or, conversely, if Malaysia had invaded the Philippines as the result of Kiram inciting war between the two countries?
While the “invasion” of Sabah by the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu had led to bloodshed, it did not lead to war between the Philippines and Malaysia. Had P-Noy sent the marines to Sabah to protect Kiram’s 235 followers from the 3,000 Malaysian commandos that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak sent to wipe out Kiram’s ragtag group, then it can be argued that Kiram incited P-Noy to war.
It would seem then that the “inciting to war” angle that P-Noy is weighing to use against Kiram doesn’t make any sense and is nothing more than a legal boondoggle.
But P-Noy could have done something to influence Razak to go easy on Kiram’s followers. After all, Kiram’s followers never made any attempt to provoke the police and commandos that surrounded them.
The 17-day standoff presented an opportunity for P-Noy to use diplomacy to put an end to the standoff peacefully. Instead, P-Noy sent six naval ships to the waters near Sabah to block further intrusion by members of Kiram’s “Royal Army.”
Could it be that P-Noy’s diplomatic inaction and naval blockade might have sent mixed signals to Razak, which may have emboldened him to use military force, which includes jet fighters and bombers, to annihilate Kiram’s followers. And considering that only 30 of Kiram’s 235 followers were armed, the Malaysian commando and air attack was overkill.
Several days later, Sultan Kiram ordered a unilateral cease-fire to his followers after United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called to end the violence in Sabah. Razak rejected the cease-fire and ordered the police and military to kill the “terrorists” if they don’t surrender unconditionally. Razak had instructed Malaysian journalists to refer to Kiram’s followers as “terrorists” in their news reports, which is an apparent attempt to sow fear among the local inhabitants. He said that the military would continue to track them down “for as long as it takes to eliminate them.”
And this is when it turned ugly – very ugly!
Reports from fleeing Filipinos told of police brutality. Filipino men were dragged out of their homes and were beaten. The police were looking for Orang Suluk (people who originated from Sulu). The police would tell them to run as fast as they could and then shoot them down. They were killed like animals!
Is Razak systematically ridding Sabah of the Orang Suluk and other Filipinos? Are these killings genocidal? It seems like it. If so, then Razak is guilty of crime against humanity and should be charged before the International Criminal Court as a “war criminal.”
Razak should be reminded of the UN Secretary General’s statement that was released to the media earlier. “The Secretary-General expresses concern about the impact this situation may have on the civilian population, including migrants in the region,” said the statement. Mr. Ban’s statement subtly warned Razak that he should be cognizant and respectful of “international human rights norms and standards.” He should also be reminded that the international community does not condone acts that could be construed as “ethnic cleansing.” If he targets the Orang Suluk for extermination, then he is guilty of genocide in every meaning of the word.
Last March 11, the Free Malaysia Today reported: “The majority, if not all, of the 800,000 Filipinos based in Sabah may be sent back to the Philippines on the premise that they had acquired their Malaysian citizenship illegally over the past 20 years under a controversial systematic granting of citizenship to foreigners dubbed Project IC (identity cards).
“Project IC, which is blamed on former Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad, was said to be among the factors that led followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to “invade” Sabah in February. Most of the Filipinos who benefited from the project in the past are Tausugs from the nearby islands of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.” The report said that out of Sabah’s population of three million, there are about 1.7 million foreigners, mostly Filipinos and Indonesians.
The following day, the Manila Bulletin published a disquieting account of abuses perpetrated against Filipinos in Sabah. An official of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) told the media that the “maltreatment of Filipinos in Malaysia following the outbreak of violence in Sabah is just the “tip of the iceberg.” “Finally, the sufferings of Filipinos in Sabah drew notice from Malacañang. We got similar, if not harsher, complaints directly from victims and made appropriate reports to higher authorities to no avail years ago,” said the official who requested anonymity.
These reports of massacre and maltreatment of Filipinos in Malaysia should be the number one concern of P-Noy. P-Noy should protest these atrocious acts in the United Nations in the strongest terms. There is no excuse for inaction.
At the end of the day, President Aquino, as the “father” of all Filipinos, is responsible for the safety and welfare of every Filipino citizen. It is high time for him to come to the aid of those in harm’s way. To do nothing would be a dereliction of his sworn duty to protect the people.
Mr. President, you’re now on center stage… and the world community is watching.