With a shadow government again in place to press the Sultanate of Sulu’s claim on Sabah, a recent setback by the Tausug warriors in Lahad Datu has linked the history of the country’s ownership of the island to its owners whom former President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III had forced to displace.
That was the accusation made by Abraham Idjirani, Secretary General of the Sultanate of Sulu, who charged Aquino of abandoning the sultanate’s cause to reclaim Sabah, which is now controlled and occupied by Malaysia.
Idjirani blasted the former Chief Executive for allegedly helping the Malaysian government and military to defuse the tension at Lahad Datu when a retired Tausug army lieutenant, who had fought and survived two battles five decades apart, led a group that was to reclaim the island from Malaysia in the belief that it is historically a property of the sultanate.
The incursion by the Filipinos on the foreign-controlled island transpired on 15 February 2013 when a 230-strong Sultanate Royal Army sailed from Mindanao to Sabah.
It was co-led by retired Lt. Hadji Musa Abdullah, whom Idjirani said was the second-in-command to Crown Prince Rajah Muda Agdimuddin when they occupied a village in Lahad Datu.
Abdullah was among the first batch of trainees in the infamous Jabidah Commando trained to infiltrate Sabah in the late 1960s.
He was in Cebu when his comrades were reportedly killed en masse in 1968.
He enlisted as regular soldier assigned with the Presidential Security Group later on.
In 2013, he brought his experience in the Army to Sabah along with the dedicated army of the sultanate.
“The journey to Lahad Datu was to peacefully settle and reclaim their ancestral lands but upon arrival, they were surrounded by seven battalion of ground troops — backed up by tanks, jet planes combat helicopters and gun boats” Idjirani narrated.
Abdullah who was trained in jungle warfare with 80 fighters were able to slip past the military dragnet while Malaysian Forces negotiated for the surrender of the remaining group.
On the third day of the negotiations, a group met with Rajah Muda but a sniper reportedly fired but missed his target. It triggered a hand-to-hand combat which resulted in the death of at least 10 Malaysian and 13 Tausug warriors.
“It was the Malaysians who fired the first shot” Idjirani said.
Abdullah and his group engaged the Malaysian forces in a firefight as the Filipinos retreated into the jungle.
Idjirani said that a Malaysian fighter jet plane spotted Abdullah’s group and fired air to ground missiles. The rockets hit a convoy of Malaysian ground forces, however.
“The Malaysian forces suffered heavy casualties from their own air force,” he said.
Ninoy’s ‘Jabidah massacre’ belied
Abdullah’s account was contrary to the version of the late Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr., father of the former President, revealed in a privilege speech delivered on 28 March 1968.
Aquino recounted a so-called “Jabidah massacre” that happened on Corregidor island on 18 March 1968 where 24 Tausug recruits trained by the military to infiltrate Sabah and foment there an uprising among their ethnic group against the Malaysian government.
According to Aquino, Marcos launched Operation Merdeka (Freedom) that will incite an uprising in Sabah that would be the excuse for the Philippine military for an invasion.
“It is the codename, Mr. President, for Mr. Marcos’ special operation to ensure his continuity in power and achieve territorial gains,” according to Aquino.
Aquino recounted two dozen of the Merdeka recruits were purportedly killed on Corregidor island where the training was held because they decided to resign, complaining of poor food and low salary.
Special Ambassador to Sabah Wencelito Andanar recently revealed to the Daily Tribune that former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and the Aquino clan have strong political bonds.
The Aquinos, from the late Senator Ninoy and to his son President Nonoy, are friends of the family of the Sultan of Johore.
Razak is a Member of Parliament representing the State of Pahang and the wife of the Sultan of Pahang is the sister of the Sultan of Johore, Andanar said of the links between Noynoy and Razak.
The Daily Tribune is now reviewing thick volumes of documents provided by an unimpeachable source that will bring out the truth behind the infamous military operations.
Crisis erupts under son, Noynoy
During the seven-day skirmishes, at least 60 Tausug warriors were killed by the Malaysians before they withdrew from Lahad Datu and returned to Sulu, including Rajah Muda.
Abdullah and his group remained in the jungle of Sabah, where he reportedly disappeared.
“ He was declared missing,”’ Idjirani said without elaborating.
Aquino III was in direct contact with the Malaysian leaders during those crucial days.
Idjirani said Aquino seemed to have acted as an agent for the Malaysian government. He asked the Filipinos to surrender, he said.
He gave a warning to the group of Rajah Muda to give up and surrender to the Malaysian security forces.
“Instead of helping us, Aquino became the spokesman of Najib and urged the Malaysians to take military and police action to annihilate our group,” Rajah Mudah reported.
The setback, however, did not cause the sultanate to give up its claim.
A shadow government has been reactivated in North Borneo.
“The Sultanate’s traditional government is now discreetly functioning to assist the religious, legal and other needs of the more than one million Filipinos — mostly Tausug residents — in Sabah,” a Daily Tribune source said.
Idjiran confirmed the existence of the alternative government that openly cooperated with the British in the past. He declined to elaborate to protect the identity of state leaders, however.
He also said the veterans of the 2013 Lahad Datu siege have regrouped in Sulu to assert their historic and legal rights over the disputed territory.