By Christina Mendez | The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. called on the Aquino administration on Tuesday to help every Filipino in Sabah regardless if they are part of the group Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, whose followers crossed into Lahad Datu to insist a centuries-old claim over the island territory.
Marcos said that the Philippines have a historical claim over Sabah since the 1960s, apparently during the term of the former president Ferdinand Marcos.
“We, as a republic, have a claim over Sabah since the 1960s, we have historical claim over Sabah and that’s a fact,” Marcos said in a statement.
Being Filipino citizens, the senator said the government should also protect the royal army of the Sultanate of Sulu and its supporters now holed up in Lahud Datu.
“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,” Marcos said.
“Before we even talk about the claim we should protect our fellow Filipinos. We should talk to the Malaysians to spare the Filipinos from harm or harassment and to resolve this matter peacefully,” he added.
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First and foremost, Marcos said the responsibility of the government is “to protect its citizens.”
Meanwihile, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero said he expects an influx of Filipinos from Sabah because of the recent developments.
However, the returning Filipinos would likely be among the major problems the country would face as a result of the outbreak of violence in the Malaysian territory.
Escudero said that the situation in Sabah requires the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to establish a diplomatic office there.
He also called on the government to immediately attend to the concerns of an estimated 800,000 Filipinos amid the conflict that had erupted in Sabah.
The senator said that the government’s concern should now be the welfare of Filipinos residing in Sabah as the standoff continues between Malaysian forces and followers of Sultan Kiram.
Escudero said the plight of the so-called “halaws” or Filipinos who are being deported from Sabah is a growing concern.
Over the weekend, some 289 Filipinos from Sabah arrived in Mindanao after being deported by Malaysian authorities. Most of those deported were women and children.
“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.
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.
Some 26 individuals from the opposing sides were reported killed as a result of the armed clashes in several parts of Sabah since last Friday.