Former President Noynoy Aquino’s true intent on the Sabah claim, tainted with suspicions of an unholy alliance between the Aquino family and the wielders of power in Malaysia, was brought into daylight during the 2013 Lahad Datu siege.
Noynoy’s actions then were geared towards protecting the interest of Malaysia while threatening the Filipino members of the Sulu Sultanate for their incursion of Sabah to enforce an ancient claim that Noynoy ignored.
When confronted about the moves taken by his administration on the Sabah question, Noynoy admitted there was none until that conflict in Malaysia.
Addressing the nation at the height of the Malaysian assault on the poorly-armed Royal Sultan Army, Noynoy gave an alibi that a letter of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to him sent through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process early in his term “was lost in the bureaucratic maze.”
Kiram then was asking for a representation in the negotiations for the Bangsamoro region since Sabah should have been an integral part of it.
“Let me make clear that there was no intention to ignore your letter. Knowing this now, will you let your mistaken belief dictate your course of action?” Noynoy asked Kiram as the skirmishes unfolded.
Of course, all his actions were then directed against Kiram in sync with the Malaysian policy.
Noynoy sent emissaries to the Kiram family but only to ask for the group in Lahad Datu to surrender and return home peacefully.
“In fact, there is a humanitarian ship with social workers and medical officers on board nearby to facilitate the peaceful departure of those in Lahad Datu,” Noynoy then proudly proclaimed.
There was nothing said about asking Malaysia to assure the safety of the Sultan’s followers and the estimated 800,000 Filipinos residing in Sabah, who were in danger as a result of the raised tension from the firefight between the followers of the Sultanate and Malaysian forces.
Noynoy then issued a statement which directed the followers of Kiram to surrender unconditionally — the same demand by then Malaysian Prime Minister and now convict Najib Razak on what he called as the Sabah invaders.
All the statement that Noynoy issued then was a total surrender to Malaysia with a feeble reference about the Philippines’ Sabah claim being still on the table despite it being clear that Noynoy already ceded the territory to Malaysia by indicating that the cause “is hopeless.”
The Sultanate of Sulu enforced a claim since the lease agreement with Malaysia, which inherited the contract from its former colonial ruler Great Britain, has lapsed, and which in turn triggered the futile effort to evict Malaysia.
Malaysia stopped its yearly rent payments which denied the Sultanate of any further proof of recognition on its claim.
And since Noynoy made clear that he will not make any move to settle the claim, the Sultanate sent its ragtag army to enforce the claim.
The capitulating administration of Noynoy chose to continually refer to the Sabah claim as a “dormant” issue.
The Sulu Sultan, through his spokesman, said the Sabah expedition should not have happened had they been consulted regarding the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro that would create the autonomous region.
Yet Noynoy in his speech admitted that certain questions needed to be answered.
“This issue is complex: From the basis of our claim, to the question of the rightful heirs, and even involving the translation of documents from an era when our grandparents weren’t even born,” he said.
Showing the kind of leadership he exercised then, Noynoy instead of communicating with the Sultanate, sent National Bureau of Investigation agents to arrest the members of the royal family who were then merely enforcing a legitimate historic claim.