Malaysia always had a substantial role in the Mindanao peace process involving particularly the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) during the term of President Noynoy Aquino that has been ascribed to neighbors helping out each other.
“The statement of Noynoy was a total surrender to Malaysia with a feeble reference about the Philippine claim to Sabah… which he referred to as a “hopeless” effort.
Many, however, are starting to question its overlapping role in supposedly facilitating peace while exercising its sovereign function of keeping the Philippines at bay in its Sabah claim.
The crisis in 2013 when 235 supporters of the late Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram invaded Lahad Datu to reclaim Sabah from Malaysia may have indicated the true nature of Malaysian assistance and Noynoy’s capitulation.
Noynoy and his sidekick Mar Roxas, for instance, appeared to have suffered an identity problem during the standoff that lasted for about a month and were talking like Malaysians seeing the Filipinos as security threats.
Both Filipino officials said nothing about the safety of the Sultan’s followers and the estimated 800,000 Filipinos residing in Sabah who suffered the backlash of Malaysian wrath after the Sultan’s ill-equipped army was defeated.
Noynoy then issued a statement which called, short of ordering, the followers of Kiram to surrender unconditionally, which was the same demand of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on the “Sabah invaders.”
The statement of Noynoy was a total surrender to Malaysia with a feeble reference about the Philippine claim to Sabah being still on the table but which he referred to as a “hopeless” effort.
The Sultanate of Sulu, in a suicidal attempt, enforced its claim based on reports that the lease agreement with Malaysia, which inherited the contract from its former colonial ruler Great Britain, would have lapsed in February 2015.
Malaysia stopped its rent payments and more significantly its recognition of the Sultanate’s claim. The Sultanate sought assistance from the government, but Noynoy referred to the territorial issue as “dormant.”
Kiram, similar to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), questioned the exclusivity of the Mindanao peace deal with the MILF which Malaysia favors.
From the start, the MILF and the Malaysian government seem to have an extraordinary relationship. During the time that the MILF was nearly decimated in an all-out war launched by former President Joseph Estrada, its commanders and chieftains all sought refuge in Malaysia.
Malaysia is also the facilitator of the peace negotiations between the Philippines and the MILF and it is among nations that has the biggest military contingent in the country, next to the United States, which acts as peace monitors.
The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) was also signed in the presence of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak who appears to have an equal footing with Noynoy in the FAB-signing ceremony.
During the invasion of Sabah, the MILF was never heard to have made a stand on the issue while it was entirely former MNLF chairman Nur Misuari who took the limelight on the side of the Sultan’s forces.
Noynoy also parroted Najib for the government’s response in the Sabah conflict.
In several US embassy cables coming out from the US post in Malaysia, intercepted by watchdog website WikiLeaks, the US government perceived that Malaysia had deep interests, mostly economic, in the conclusion of the peace negotiations and the forming of the Bangsamoro homeland.
The leaked cables quoted former US Ambassador to Malaysia Christopher Lafleur as saying that he sensed from Malaysian officials a “degree of wariness with increasing US activities and presence in a neighboring Muslim area of Southeast Asia.”
“It also whiffs of Malaysian interests on Mindanao, an area in which Malaysia desires influence and economic gain,” Lafleur said.
The Sulu Sultan said the Sabah expedition would have not been launched had the Sultanate been consulted regarding the FAB, which was the basic document for the Bangsamoro Organic Law then known as the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Kiram said he wrote Noynoy about the consultation process regarding the peace deal, but Noynoy claimed he never read it. The Palace then said the letter was lost in “the bureaucratic maze” or in a more direct way of speaking, was tossed into a trash can.
Noynoy made clear that he wanted to disassociate with the Sultan or the claim associated with it out of fear of offending Malaysia.
There were a lot of talks about a modus vivendi with Malaysia for all Philippine presidents after Marcos regarding the Sabah claim, which appears to have been the case between Noynoy and Najib.
Najib is now under probe in Malaysia for some financial misdeals that consequently poses questions of integrity on his close affinity with Noynoy regarding the Mindanao peace deal.