DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/04 March) — Opposition senatorial candidate Jackie Ponce Enrile said the Philippines and Malaysia must exert all efforts to resolve the Sabah issue “swiftly and peacefully” even as he expressed surprise that a political strategist identified with a partymate has admitted he is adviser to the Sultan of Sulu.
Enrile told the 6th Mindanao Indigenous People’s Convention, second ATM partylist annual general assembly and the first Bangsamoro-Highlanders Mindanao-wide summit at the Felis Resort Complex here Sunday that Republic Act 5446 clearly states the Philippines’ claim over Sabah.
He said the law, titled “An act to defend the baselines of the territorial sea of the Philippines” provides that it is “without prejudice to the delineation of the baselines of the territorial sea around the territory of Sabah, situated in North Borneo, over which the Republic of the Philippines has acquired dominion and sovereignty.”
In a press conference after his speech, Enrile said if the Philippine government had acted on the issue beforehand and acted on it “swiftly and with the right programs,” he said the group of Kiram would not have risked their lives going to Sabah.
“This draws attention to the issue. Kailangang bigyan ng atensyon ni Pangulong Aquino itong particular na isyung ito (President Aquino should give attention to this particular issue),” he added.
Asked to comment about the admission of Pastor Boy Saycon that he is adviser to the Sultan of Sulu, Enrile said he was surprised.
“I didn’t know although I know Pastor Boy Saycon personally as a friend, I do not know his role. When I get back to Manila, I intend to ask him about ,” Enrile said.
Saycon reportedly admitted that he is an adviser to Sultan of Sulu but on his personal capacity, and that he had known about the Kiram’s plan since August but opposed it.
Saycon , secretary general of the Council on Philippine Affairs (COPA), is known to be close to the President’s uncle, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco and wife Margarita. The latter is running for senator under UNA.
A Philippine Star report on February 20, quoting unnamed “reliable sources” said the standoff in Sabah had infuriated President Aquino “who suspects that the incident is meant to sabotage his administration’s peace initiatives with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“The highly placed sources said Malacañang believes Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III is not acting on his own in highlighting his family’s claim over Sabah,” the Philippine Star said, adding the Sultan is “ailing and is undergoing dialysis.”
The report said among those being eyed by administration officials as instigators are Moro National Liberation Front chair Nur Misuari, former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales and the President’s uncle, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco and his wife, Margarita.
Misuari, Gonzales and Margarita Cojuangco denied the allegations.
Interaksyon.com reported on Sunday that Gonzales, after a closed-door meeting with the Sultan and his family, said he was willing to be investigated “anytime” to prove he did not push the Sultaan to instruct his men to go to Lahad Datu.
Enrile said he is “not privy to the relationship of UNA with the Kirams. I have no personal relationship with the Kirams. I have heard of them all my life. I know of their claim. I am sympathetic to their cause (to reclaim their rights over Sabah)…”
Amina Rasul, president of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy noted that Saycon has come out in the open as having advised the Sultan but has said that he has tried to dissuade him from the plan to go to Lahad Datu.
“One has to ask Mr. Saycon how the expedition pushed through since the Sultan does not have the capacity to implement such a move,” Rasul said. (Lorie Ann Cascaro with a report from Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)