By Jocelyn Montemayor with JP Lopez | Malaya
MALACAÑANG yesterday said it did everything it could to peacefully end the standoff but the family of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III chose to defy authorities and take the path of violence.
“We’ve done everything we could to prevent this but in the end, Kiram’s people chose this path,” said Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ramon Carandang, after Malaysian forces launched an assault against Kiram’s men who are holed out in Lahud Datu in Sabah.
Asked if the Aquino government would just watch while the Malaysian forces attack Kiram’s men, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said, “We have made our plea. Three weeks, we have asked them to come home now. After that, what did we say last Saturday? We have asked them: If you value your life, you know what’s the right thing to do.”
Lacierda said the concern of the Aquino government now is the condition of the 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah who might have been affected in the assault, as well as the families of the 180 armed men of the Kirams who are in Sabah, that were left behind in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
He said the welfare of the Filipinos in Sabah was part of discussions between President Aquino and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak last Saturday. The President on Monday said the Prime Minister had assured him that they would not be harmed.
Lacierda said government, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, is assisting the families of the 180 men who were left behind in the Philippines.
He said the DSWD is in touch with Haji Norkiza Kiram, wife of Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, in identifying the families of the men who are in Lahud Datu.
Lacierda, meanwhile, expressed confidence that Philippine-Malaysian ties would not be affected by the latest development in Sabah nor would it hamper the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) Community target by 2015.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. reminded the Aquino administration that the Sultan of Sulu and his Royal Army are Filipino citizens who should be accorded protection by the government.
“We, as a republic, have a claim over Sabah since the 1960’s. We have a historical claim over Sabah and that’s a fact,” Marcos said.
Marcos’ father, former President Ferdinand Marcos, had tried to organize a secret group of Muslim militants to take over Sabah from Malaysia but the plan was discovered and the Muslim trainees were massacred in what is now known as the “Jabidah massacre.”
It was former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., the president’s father, who exposed the operation. The incident prompted the Malaysian government to support the secessionist movement of Moro National Liberation Front of Nur Misuari, several historians said.