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AQUINO BLAMES SULU SULTANATE FOR ENDANGERING FILIPINOS ABROAD

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine President Benigno Aquino III today accused the Sulu Sultanate of putting fellow Filipinos at risk, turning the tables on the Kiram family as he moved to ward off criticism against his administration for being subservient to Malaysia.
The country’s 15th president said that Sulu “Sultan” Jamalul Kiram III’s insistence on leaving his armed band in Sabah’s Lahad Datu had led to a “propaganda war”, and forced the over-800,000 Filipinos living in the east Malaysian state into harm’s way.
Philippine media network ABN-CBS News reported Aquino as condemning the self-styled Sultan for the incursion, adding that the president had also appealed to Filipinos to support what is “right”.
  • Aquino, in making the appeal during a programme with the administration’s senatorial candidates in the Philippines, had reportedly also explained that when he had urged the Sultanate’s men to surrender and return home, he had done so with the welfare of the 800,000 Filipinos residing in Malaysia.
  • ABN-CBS also reported the president, who is also known as PNoy, as saying that the Sultan’s actions would affect the welfare of these Filipinos.
  • Malaysia’s security forces had bombarded the Sulu militants in an aerial attack at dawn yesterday, but despite the subsequent ground sweep by military troops, the gunmen and their leader ― the “crown prince of Sulu” Agbimuddin Kiram ― have yet to be apprehended.
  • The Philippine government had tried to prevent the attack using diplomatic means but the gunmen’s refusal to early peace negotiations and the subsequent deaths of Malaysian police forced the Najib administration to launch the offensive.

But Aquino’s government has said it has not abandoned the Sultanate’s claim over Sabah, with the president saying today that the standoff could be traced back to the lease granted by the Sulu Sultanate to the British North Borneo in 1878, ABS-CBN reported.
A study group has also been formed to look into the Sultanate’s claim on the north Borneo territory.
  • The media network reported that Aquino, in his speech, then reminded of a document dated February 1,1968, which was a power of attorney executed by the Sultanate’s heirs showing that they recognised the president’s authority “to represent them in the settlement of their proprietary rights over Sabah.”
  • As such, the president reportedly said that sending armed men to stake claim over Sabah was not the way to resolve the protracted dispute between Malaysia and the Philippines.
  • He cited worry that this violent episode could affect bilateral relations between both nations, noting Malaysia’s role in brokering the Bangsamoro peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Aquino’s administration has come under heavy fire from Filipinos for allowing Malaysia to take harsh action against the Sulu gunmen, who have been leading the armed standoff in Lahad Datu since February 9.
It representatives have argued repeatedly in the Philippine media that the aggressive stance taken by Malaysia’s military was inevitable, pointing out that all attempts at negotiating a peaceful end had failed with the Sulu army.
At a press conference yesterday, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Philippine government would likely react in much the same fashion if 
the situation were reversed.

The Philippine government, he added, had asked the group to return home to discuss their ownership claim over Sabah, but even after ground skirmishes with Malaysia’s police commandos kicked off last Friday, the Sulu militants insisted on staying put.
“We have asked them to come back. If you value your life, you know what to do,” he said.

Source: Philippines TV network ABN-CBS News.
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