Gov’t can’t dip hand

The government keeping clear of the French arbitral award of $14.9 billion to the Sulu Sultanate over the Sabah conflict with Malaysia may just be the perfect position since any attempt for it to intervene may compromise the international tribunal’s ruling.

The proprietary claim filed with the arbitral tribunal is “in the nature of a private claim,” Malacañang had said.

Former defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro, who is an international lawyer, said the government dipping its hand into the legal fray will justify the stand of the Malaysian government that the case impinges on its sovereignty.

He said establishing the case as a sovereignty issue will result in the arbitral court losing jurisdiction.

It is the International Court of Justice which has sole jurisdiction in resolving territorial disputes.

Teodoro said even if the government does not insist on sharing from the proceeds of the award, it will still earn through tax collections.

He added the government stands to benefit if the award is implemented because the heirs are Filipino citizens and they are required to pay an inheritance tax.

“The tax and other administrative fees will be deducted from their respective share,” according to Teodoro.

“It’s a windfall award both for the government and the heirs of the Sultanate,” he said.

Malaysia response awaited

Teodoro had also stated that renegotiating the 1878 lease deal between the Sultanate and the British North Borneo Co., which Malaysia assumed in 1963, would be the likely outcome of the arbitral ruling.

A ranking member of the Sultanate said he agreed with Teodoro.

“Malaysia should undertake the honorable and just response by accepting the verdict and make amends to the Sabah heirs,” the member of the royal household said.

“Being an Islamic state, I am still hoping that Malaysia will show the world that Islam promotes, practices and provides true justice by reasonably settling what is due to their Muslim brothers in the Sultanate of Sulu,” he added.

Another Sultanate official echoed the statement of Teodoro saying that the arbitral award was the result of a private initiative which did not get any support from the government.

He said Malaysia cannot invoke sovereignty, since it only inherited the 1878 leasehold right from the British in 1963.

“The proprietary right of the Sultan of Sulu was already established since the cession of North Borneo, the name by which Malaysia called Sabah in 1963. The Sultanate of Sulu was vested with sovereign rights by the Sultan of Brunei in 1784,” he said.

The Sultanate official said in 1939, the British High Court recognized the proprietary right after three years of litigation on the interpleading claim suit filed by the nine descendants of Jamalul Kiram II without touching the nature of the rental payment of the 1878 lease agreement.

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