When the government signed a preliminary peace deal with Moro rebels in October last year, it didn’t expect that one of the guests in Malacañang would cause an international crisis and deprive President Aquino of sleep.
Sultan Jamalul Kiram III was one of hundreds of guests who crammed a hall in the Palace to witness the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro on Oct. 15, 2012, Malacañang said on Wednesday.
Little did Malacañang know that Jamalul, one of the heirs of the sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, was feeling left out of the agreement and would order a group of his followers to Sabah to occupy the territory in an attempt to press his clan’s claim to the land.
No ringside seat?
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told a press briefing Wednesday that Jamalul could not complain about not being given a good seat in Malacañang because he, too, had no seat.
“It was such a historic event. People just wanted to come in. There were so many important people there. Even the ambassadors were not seated. There was not a section devoted to the diplomatic [corps]. Everybody present sat with one another,” he said.
“The atmosphere was one of hope and one of optimism. It was unfortunate that he’s complaining only now. But the fact that he was invited … we recognized the fact out of the millions of Muslims in Mindanao, he was invited to come to the Palace. That should be an acknowledgment of the recognition of the traditional leadership in [the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao],” he said.
Contrary to Jamalul’s claim that the sultanate was left out of the talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the government panel met with him before the agreement was signed, Lacierda said.
“In the discussions on the peace process, the panel met with Sultan Jamalul Kiram. In fact, they were consulted. That’s the reason why if you look at the Bangsamoro framework agreement, there is a provision there, there’s respect for customary laws, traditional leaders,” he said.
The claim to Sabah was not tackled during the consultations “primarily because they recognized the peace process involved,” he added.
Staying up late
Stumping in Cagayan de Oro City for his administration’s senatorial candidates on Tuesday, President Aquino admitted staying up till 3 a.m. that day to write his televised appeal to Jamalul to order his followers to leave Sabah or face charges in court.
“Last night we prepared the statement about the Sabah incident. That lasted until 1:30 a.m. After that, Gov. [Mujiv] Hataman reported the outcome of his talks with the Kirams, and that was around 2 a.m. Everything was finished by 3 a.m. I got up from bed at 7 a.m. to deliver the statement, and then we flew here,” he told a large crowd in the Don Gregorio Pelaez Sports Complex.