Former President Benigno Aquino and former Malaysian Prime Minister Abdul Najib Rajak had set up a hotline at the height of the Lahad Datu standoff to coordinate their actions, the late crown prince of the Sultanate of Sulu revealed in 4 March 2013 as the incident raged.
Aquino and Najib were believed to have tightly coordinated during the standoff that led to suspicions that the Aquino administration synchronized its actions with that of Malaysia, if not Aquino was taking direct orders from Najib.
Raja Mudah Agbimudidin Kiram, brother of the former Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, led more than 1,000 followers in the Lahad Datu siege in 2013. He returned to Sulu after the Sabah siege, but died in 2015.
Instead of helping us, Aquino became the spokesman for Najib and he was the one who urged the Malaysians to take military and police action to annihilate our group
The group of Kiram landed in Lahad Datu on 15 February 2013 after there was negotiations but he said Aquino who was in direct contact with Najib did not make any effort to help the group of Kiram.
Aquino even warned the group of Kiram to give up and surrender to the Malaysian security forces.
“Instead of helping us, Aquino became the spokesman for Najib and he was the one who urged the Malaysians to take military and police action to annihilate our group,” he said.
The military and police operations started on 1 March 2013 and lasted seven days.
Kiram and 35 others eluded the Malaysian security forces but they were arrested when they arrived in Tawi-Tawi upon orders of Aquino.
Kiram died in Sinunlo, Tawi-Tawi in 2014 due to cardiac arrest.
Rekindling a feud
Kiram warned that Najib wanted to resurrect a centuries-old feud between the Sultanate of Sulu and the Tausugs who are mostly members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Maguindanao tribes of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“Kiram told me its history repeating itself,” Idjirani said. He said with the final peace accord between the government and the MILF, the rebel group’s guerillas now form part of security forces that coordinate with Malaysia in monitoring the movement of MNLF which still has a number of strongholds in Sabah.
“Malaysia with the help of the Philippine government is now again pitting the Tausug and Maguidanao people to protect Sabah. The Malaysians are now the modern-day Spanish conquistadors,” he said.
Aquino, at the time, issued a statement which called, short of ordering, the followers of Kiram to surrender unconditionally, which was the same demand of Najib on what he called as Sabah invaders.
The statement of Aquino was a total surrender while later indicating that the cause of the country in reclaiming Sabah “is hopeless.”
Kiram, the Sulu Sultan, complained that the Sultanate was not consulted regarding the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the letter which the Sulu Sultanate sent to Malacañang, Aquino said, was lost in “the bureaucratic maze.”
The fighting which started in Lahad Datu later on spread to other parts of Sabah. Some rebel groups joined the expedition who were suspected members of the MNLF.