BBM following father’s footsteps on Sabah claim?

The Sultanate of Sulu raised yesterday the possibility that the deafening silence of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on the $14.9 billion arbitral award is an indication that he is following the footsteps of his father in dropping the territorial claim on Sabah and being a friend to the country’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations neighbors.

A sultanate official recalled that during the ASEAN Summit on 4 August 1977, the late President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. announced that the Philippines would take “definite steps to eliminate one of the burdens of the ASEAN — the claim of the Philippine Republic to Sabah.”

Marcos’ statement, however, did not materialize.

When he was still a senator, the son and namesake, Bongbong Marcos Jr., proved to be a strong advocate of reviving the Philippine claim on Sabah. He filed a resolution and an alternative bill in accordance with the 1987 Constitution and guidelines set by the United Nations Convention on the law of the sea.

Marcos Jr. has even delivered a privilege speech urging his colleagues to consider his bill to strengthen the hold on all territorial water resources, including active claims provided for under treaties and international covenants properly and finally defining the archipelagic baseline of the Philippines.

“We must ensure that the definition of national territories provided under the 1987 Constitution is that it Includes all those enumerated in the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions,” Marcos said.

A member of the Sultanate, however, is puzzled that six months after a French arbitral court ordered the granting of a $14.9 billion compensation award, the President has yet to issue a statement.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said the Sabah claim is a private case although Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said he is still studying the legal and constitutional implication of the arbitral award.

Jabidah massacre

The Sultanate official said the late Senator Benigno Aguino exposed that in 1968 the late President Marcos carried out the so-called Merdeka Operation where Tausugs were trained to infiltrate Sabah.

The failed operation, however, resulted in the so-called Jabidah massacre.

The Sultanate official said Republic Ac 5446 which took effect September 1968, regarded Sabah as a territory “over which the Republic of the Philippines has acquired dominion and sovereignty.

The Supreme Court in 2011 ruled that the Philippine claim over Sabah is retained and may be pursued in the future.

“But the government, except for the late President Diosdado Macapagal and his daughter, former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo has officially pursued the territorial claim on the disputed territory,” the Sultanate official said.

During the administration of the late President Macapagal, the Philippine government claimed the territory of North Borneo, and the full sovereignty, title, and dominion over it were “ceded” by the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu, Muhammad Esmail Kiram III to the Philippines.

In 2004, his daughter, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, attempted to pursue the Sabah claim by creating the Sabah Desk (Sabah and North Borneo desk) but a fire at the Department of Foreign affairs broke out. That was the last time the governments of Malaysia and the Philippines discussed the Sabah claim.

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