By Bernadette Tamayo | People's Journal
THE Aquino administration must appeal to the Malaysian government to “spare from harm” the followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III in Lahad Datu as Malaysian forces intensified their operation against armed Filipinos in Sabah to prevent them from “invading” North Borneo.
Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. stressed the necessity for the Philippine government to seek the protection of Filipinos in Malaysia – be they followers of the Sultanate of Sulu or ordinary workers — amid reports that the Malaysian forces had bombed the alleged hideout of Sultan’s followers in Lahad Datu, led by his younger brother, Raja Muda (Crown Prince) Agbimuddin Kiram, to flush them out and eventually neutralize them.
“We, as a republic, have a claim over Sabah since the 1960’s. We have historical claim over Sabah and that’s a fact. But whatever else the issue there may be, the Sultan of Sulu and his people are Filipino citizens and, by virtue of that fact, they deserve protection from the government of the Philippines,” he said.
“Pero bago natin pag-usapan ang claim, protektahan muna natin ang mga Pilipino. We should talk to the Malaysians to spare the Filipinos from harm or harassment and to resolve this matter peacefully. First and foremost, it’s the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens,” Marcos stressed.
United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) senatorial candidate JV Ejercito has lamented the “loss of precious lives” of Filipinos and Malaysians in Sabah. “We appeal to Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his followers to heed to calls for the peaceful resolution of this issue. We also ask the Aquino administration to address the grievances raised carefully with peaceful resolution and diplomacy,” Ejercito said.
Reelectionist Sen.Francis “Chiz” Escudero echoed similar concerns as he asked the government to look after the welfare of Filipinos residing in Sabah as the standoff continues between Malaysian forces and followers of Kiram who crossed into the Malaysian territory to enforce a centuries-old claim of the Sulu Sultanate. He said the plight of the so-called “halaws” or Filipinos who are being deported from Sabah is a growing concern.
There are reportedly 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah who are either documented or undocumented workers there. Over the weekend, some 289 Filipinos – mostly women and children — from Sabah arrived in Mindanao after being deported by Malaysian authorities.
“The deported Filipinos will be uprooted from their source of livelihood in Sabah which the government should anticipate to prevent a humanitarian disaster as more of our countrymen are sent home,” Escudero said.
He said that while Malaysian authorities have been “regularly sending undocumented Filipinos home, the repatriation of Filipinos is expected to speed up after the recent bloody conflict that erupted.”
“A diplomatic outpost will allow the government to closely monitor the transit of Filipinos out of the territory while looking into the welfare of our countrymen still in Sabah. Of immediate concern is the welfare of Filipinos who were born and raised in Sabah which is the bigger humanitarian issue that must be addressed through diplomatic channels,” he said.