Gov’t tuned in to Sabah dispute — SolGen

More than five months after a French arbitration court ordered the Malaysian government to pay US$14.92 billion to the descendants of the last Sulu sultan, the Philippine government is doing its best to keep abreast of the issue.

Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, who heads the task force that will review the country’s claim on Sabah, said he will make sure that all things will be in order, legally and constitutionally.

Guevarra has been very accommodating when being asked about his take on the Sabah issue as if he is taking his cue from the earlier vow of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to “defend every square inch of the country’s territory.”

Asked if he is planning to talk with the heirs or their lawyers for possible collaboration on the issue, Guevarra said: “If deemed necessary, we’ll consider that possibility after we have studied the matter well enough. Right now, no party involved in the arbitration has approached the government for any kind of intervention,” he said.

At the Senate hearing the other day, Guevarra said he will personally supervise the task force that will study the country’s claim on Sabah.

“I will personally head the task force that will review the implications of this arbitration between the two parties and submit an appropriate report at a future time,” Guevarra pointed out during the organizational meeting of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

“For now, we just have recently constituted this team but for purposes of supervising the work of the Solicitor General himself, that means myself will supervise and oversee the study,” he added.

Guevarra’s answer was in response to Senator Francis Tolentino, chair of the panel of what measures his office had done over the recent decision of the French arbitration court which favored the claims of the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu.

Death wish

It will be recalled that eight months after the bloody Lahad Standoff in February 2013, Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram 111 at his death bed ordered his followers to pursue the Sabah claim peacefully for the benefit of the Filipino people.

The Sultan died of multiple organ failure on 20 October, 2013 at the age of 75. His dying wish was to pursue the Sabah claim peacefully.

An official of the Sultanate told the Daily Tribune that the initial objective of the so-called Lahad Datu 200 was to return to their ancestral land in Sabah and settle peacefully believing that the Malaysian government would respect their proprietary right over the disputed territory.

But instead of peaceful negotiation, the Malaysians, in coordination with the Philippine government, used military force to neutralize the Sultanate descendants.

“ The journey to Lahad Datu was to peacefully settle and reclaim their ancestral land but upon arrival, they were surrounded by seven battalions of ground troops, backed up by tanks, jet planes, combat helicopters and gunboats.”

On the third day of supposed negotiations, a group of negotiators met with Rajah Muda but a sniper fired but missed his target triggering a hand-to-hand combat that resulted in the death of at least 10 Malaysian and 13 Tausug warriors.

“It was the Malaysians who fired the first shot,” the official said.

According to a Sultanate official, the Sultan, at his death bed told his wife Fatima and family members to keep alive the historic territorial claim to Sabah for the benefit of the Filipino people.

“The Sultan however said that there should be no more violence and since the government has abandoned their cause, the family must continue the struggle on their own, the official said.

“The sultan died a poor but honorable man. He told his wife his fight to reclaim Sabah as part of the sultanate’s territory would continue, the official said.

After the Sultan’s death, his younger brother Phugalum Kiram II was installed as the 35th Sulu Sultan on 6 February 2016 at the provincial capitol in Patikul Sulu.

Sultan Phugdalum led a delegation to met ancestral relatives in China to commemorate the 600 death anniversary of Sultan Pahara who died and was buried in Dezhou city, Shandong province in 1405 after signing an accord of alliance between the celestial empire of China (Ming dynasty and the eastern Kingdom of Sulu.

The Lahad Datu standoff has prompted Malaysia to cut off the yearly 5,000 Malaysian ringgit payment to the heirs of the Sultanate which prompted eight direct descendants of the Sultanate to bring the case to the International arbitration tribunal.

A French arbitration court in February ordered Malaysia to pay the $14.9 billion sum to the descendants of the last Sultan of Sulu to settle a dispute over a pre-colonial deal.

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