“Bakit hindi tayo napapagod ay para hindi masayang ang sakripisyo nila. Tayo, ako na nandito ay magpatuloy sa paglaban (The reason we are here is not to make their sacrifice go to waste. We, myself will continue with this fight), we will not stop until we get back what is ours,” Jacel said.
By TYRONE A. VELEZ
DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Her uncle’s sacrifice and the people’s support are keeping the Sulu sultan’s daughter positive that the Sabah dispute may end in favor of the Filipinos.
Davao Today sat down in an interview with Princess Jacel Kiram, who came here last week for a series of forum on the Sabah issue.
Kiram said they have seen the worse happen in the past two months since her uncle Raja Muda (Crown Prince) Agbimuddin set course to Lahad Datu in Sabah with 234 of his followers. Despite Malaysia’s air attacks on his uncle’s troops, and the Philippine government’s threat of legal suit against her father, the Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, for sanctioning the occupation of Sabah, Jacel said they remain firm on their stand that Sabah would be returned to the country.
“Bakit hindi tayo napapagod ay para hindi masayang ang sakripisyo nila. Tayo, ako na nandito ay magpatuloy sa paglaban (The reason we are here is not to make their sacrifice go to waste. We, myself will continue with this fight), we will not stop until we get back what is ours,” Jacel said in an interview.
“Fight to their last breath”
Raja Muda is staying put in the island with 161 remaining followers, to “fight to their last breath.”
How her uncle, the Raja Muda and his followers survived the ordeal is a wonder for Jacel. “Majority sa kanila, may mga may edad na (Most of them are old),” she said, adding that the people who set sail with Raja Muda beginning February 9 are mostly senior citizens, with the youngest in their 40s.
“Sa edad na yan, gusto pa ba nila magyera? (At that age, do they want to start a war?),” Jacel said explaining her uncle and his followers, contrary to what is being largely portrayed by the media, only “wanted the rest of their years to be spent in Sabah, “hindi para manggulo, para maranasan ang pagbuhay sa sariling lupain (not to provoke conflict, but to experience living in their territory).”
The fact that only 22 of the Royal Security Forces had arms for protection of the prince indicates such intention. “Hindi natin kaya mag-sustain ng war, di natin gusto ng ganito (We could not sustain war; we did not want that to happen),” she explained.
Jacel said Raja Muda took this recourse after attempts by the Sultan to ask President Aquino to take on the Sabah claim has been left unanswered.
“They are not hoping any more, they think they cannot experience (staying in Sabah) in their lifetime, walang response sa mga sulat, hindi nagbigay ng importansya sa admin ni Aquino (There were no response from our letters, the Aquino administration do not give importance to this).”
Jacel said they wrote three letters to the President since 2010 but all these were ignored. The first one was lost by Malacañang.
“I don’t know how they would explain what happened to the second and third letter. Apparently it was not given importance by the Aquino administration,” she said.
She recalled Raja Muda had planned this since last year, which the Sultan did not agree that time, “sabi ng tatay ko baka may pag-asa tayo kay Aquino (My father thought perhaps there is hope with Aquino).”
It was only last February that Raja Muda had the Sultan’s permission, granted that the Royal Security Force should “always point their rifles on the ground,” Jacel remembers her father’s instruction.
“May video na ngayon lang dumating, ang unang araw ng pagdating nila sa Lahad Datu. Makita ang hitsura nila , hindi mga bata Majority may mga may edad na, ang youngest mga 40s. Paano sila nag survive, it’s a miracle (A video just arrived to us showing their first day at Lahad Datu. You can see that majority of them are aged, the youngest is at his 40s. How they survived, it’s a miracle).”
She said, “Dito ko nakita ang galing ng uncle ko, ng Royal Security Force. Napadalhan ka ng seven battalions, ang gamit lang nila pagdepensa ay 22 na armas, yet they are alive (This is where I see my uncle’s determination, and the Royal Security Force as well. They faced seven battalions, their only defense are 22 firearms, yet they are alive),” says Jacel.
She revealed that Filipinos living in Lahad Datu had been protecting the Raja Muda and his followers.
Fighting for what is ours
As alternate spokesperson to her father aside from official spokesman Idjarani, Jacel appears for media interviews and forums in Manila and other cities like Davao, to discuss these issues.
Reactions have been positive on her forums and interviews, “lumabas ang pag-isa ng Pilipino, Muslim o Kristiyano nag-iisa for this cause (Filipinos are united, Muslim or Christians for this cause),” she said.
She reiterated that the Sabah claim is not for their clan but for the country, “Sabah belongs not only to the Sultan or to Sulu. It belongs to the Filipino people.”
She said that since the ultimatum from Malaysia on February 26, they wrote to the minister of Malaysia and to President Aquino that they want to resolve the issue peacefully.
She said that since the lease or padyak of Sabah to then Borneo (now Malaysia) has ceased since 1978, it should be time to reclaim Sabah.
“A perpetual lease in international law means 99 years, and the territory gets returned on the 100th year. Just like what happened in Hong Kong which was leased to Britain from China and got it back in 1997. We were hoping this would happen,” she said.
Instead, the Malaysian government continues to pay annual rent at around PHP 70,000 annually.
“We are talking about 37,000 square miles. So 70,000 pesos means we are paid two pesos per square meter. Where can we find any land that is worth this low?” asks Jacel.
She said only a sovereign state can file to the international courts the Philippine claim to Sabah. What exasperates her and her family is the Aquino government’s refusal to talk and instead arrested 22 RSF members who returned after the ultimatum. His father is threatened with legal cases.
“What is wrong with fighting what is ours? This is not personal interest. Di ko maintindihan na di ito maintindihan ni Noynoy. Ba’t di niya makita ang halaga na protektahan ang interes ng mamamayan, na sinabi niya kayo ang boss ko (I can’t figure out why Noynoy does not understand this. Why can’t he see the need to protect the interest of the people who he calls his boss)?”
Jacel said Sabah’s revenue from oil production has contributed 23 percent to Malaysia’s growth, earning around PHP 12 Billion a year.
“Hindi ba ito makita ng ating pangulo, Malaysia can subsidize basic commodities like gasoline. Tayo nahihirapan dito. Gusto naming tama na ang 100 years ng pakinabang ng Malaysia sa property natin. Simple. We have to protect the interest of the Filipino. Sino ba, ano ba pinoprotektatahn nila? (Can’t the president see this? Malaysia can subsidize basic commodities like gasoline. While we are hard put with it. We say it is enough that for 100 years Malaysia benefited from our property. We have to protect the Filipino’s interest. Who is he protecting)?”
Jacel challenges Aquino to reveal family interests in Malaysia and ties with Malaysian royalty that is keeping him from asserting the Sabah claim.
Articles circulated online reveal Aquino’s relatives, the Cojuangcos, having business ties with Malaysia. Aquino’s cousin, Tonyboy Cojuangco, the largest contributor to his presidential campaign, partly owns the Malaysian Air Asia Bhd.
Another investment in Malaysia’s downstream oil business involves Aquino’s uncle Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco, San Miguel Corp. President who owns majority of Petron Oil.
She also slams Aquino for listening to advice of Sultan Ibrahim Ismail, sultanate of Johor, Malaysia. She claims Ismail lived with Aquino’s father when the latter was in Boston, Massachusetts, United States.
Jacel feels Aquino has been Malaysia’s spokesperson for echoing their stand and allowing the attacks of Malaysian forces on her uncle and on Filipinos living in Sabah.
“Since day one, I feel we don’t have a president acting and protecting us,” she said.
The way the Philippine politics is turning on this dispute becomes a lesson in ongoing history, not only for Jacel, but for the Filipinos.
“Kaya tingnan natin ang Pilipinas saan na ba tayo,tingnan natin ang kasaysayan (We should look at where our country is going, our history. Only with historical truth can we never go wrong.),” she said.
Jacel said ultimately the people have to decide their fate. “Ipagdasal na natin magkaroon na tayo ng pangulo na ma-realize na kailangan protektahan ang interes ng mamamayan. Nasa kamay natin ang susi sa kinabukasan, sa pagpili ng lider ng ating bansa (Let us pray we will have a president that realizes he or she has to protect the people’s interests. The key to our future lies in our hands, in choosing one who can lead our nation).” (Tyron A. Velez/davaotoday.com)Princess Jacel Kiram, sabah, Sabah claim