News Flash

October 09, 2015, Friday
  • Police detective shoots dead a hostage-taker who took control of a bus along Taft Ave. corner Pedro Gil in Manila. 10 hours ago |
  • Coloma says Pres. Aquino cannot yet certify as urgent the proposed BBL since it is still in the period of interpellation. 10 hours ago |
  • Arroyo to file her COC next week as she intends to run for 3rd & final term in Pampanga’s 2nd district. 10 hours ago |
  • Sen. Angara says both Senate & House are trying to find a ‘win-win solution’ for bill seeking to lower income tax. 10 hours ago |
  • Arroyo asks Sandiganbayan for permission to avail of some medical procedures in St. Luke’s QC from Oct. 21 to 22. 10 hours ago |
  • Rep. Arroyo asks Sandiganbayan to allow her to go through some medical tests not available at VMMC. 10 hours ago |
  • Policeman killed in an ambush in Marawi City on Wednesday night. 15 hours ago |
  • Comelec & Smartmatic-TIM to hold review of source code for 2016 elections in the first week of Jan. 2016 15 hours ago |
  • Arroyo to file new petition for bail at Sandiganbayan & will use UN Working Group’s report as basis. 15 hours ago |
  • DOJ cites US-PH Mutual Defense Treaty as basis for participation of U.S. troops in Mamasapano operation. 15 hours ago |
  • DOJ says U.S. troops who participated in Oplan Exodus did not violate the PH constitution. 15 hours ago |
  • DOJ says U.S. troops’ participation in Mamasapano clash was limited to intelligence work & monitoring & not actual combat. 15 hours ago |
  • DOJ confirms U.S. troops’ participation in Oplan Exodus launched the Mamasapano operations last Jan. 25. 15 hours ago |
  • Palace does not see Enrile’s call for full plenary debates on Mamasapano encounter as an attack vs. Aquino gov’t. 15 hours ago |
  • Singer and comedienne Elizabeth Ramsey passes away at 83. 16 hours ago |
  • Businessman Cedric Lee pays P 20K bail at Court of Tax Appeals in connection with the tax evasion case filed vs. him by DOJ. 16 hours ago |
  • Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile says the death of SAF 44 must not be taken lightly. 16 hours ago |
  • Sen. Enrile seeks a full plenary discussion on the Senate committee report on Mamasapano encounter. 16 hours ago |
  • Justice Sec. Leila de Lima says they have legal basis to detain Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo. 16 hours ago |
  • Sen. Miriam Santiago says some society leaders are urging her to run for president & she can rise to the occasion. 17 hours ago |
  • DOJ: No witnesses that can identify who killed the 9 Seaborne Commandos that attacked suspected Malaysian terrorist Marwan’s hut. 17 hours ago |
  • DOJ: 9 Seaborne Commandos who attacked Marwan’s hut were killed in an area away from cornfield in Tukanalipao where 35 SAF members died. 17 hours ago |
  • DOJ: No respondents can be charged for the death of 9 members of 84th Seaborne Commandos who attacked Marwan’s hut during Mamasapano clash 17 hours ago |
  • 5-man UN Working Group urges PH gov’t to review Arroyo’s bail petition based on int’l human rights standards. 17 hours ago |
  • UN Working Group cites international law as basis for finding Arroyo’s continued detention illegal. 17 hours ago |
  • UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declares Arroyo’s detention at VMMC arbitrary & illegal. 17 hours ago |
  • Magnitude 4.7 earthquake hits Masbate & parts of Sorsogon. 17 hours ago |
  • 1 person dies & 3 are rescued as boat capsizes in Taal Lake in Talisay, Batangas. 17 hours ago |
  • Armed men abduct an Italian in Dipolog City. 17 hours ago |
  • Road mishap involving a truck & 9 motorcycles occurs at Commonwealth Ave near Tandang Sora flyover in QC. 17 hours ago |
  • Fire in Barangay Lipunan, Quezon City now under control. 18 hours ago |

The path through Sabah

Mar. 05, 2013 at 12:01am
There is a tragic congruence between the conflicting initial reports of casualties in limited clashes in Lahad Datu, Sabah, between the “Royal Army” of Jamalul Kiram III, heir to the historical Sultanate of Sulu, and Malaysian security forces, which greeted us Saturday, and the equally convoluted history that led to it. The incursion has reignited sovereignty claims and disputes between the Philippines and Malaysia which have erupted since Malaysian independence and the Diosdado Macapagal Administration in the 1960s, but which succeed disputes during the American, Spanish, and British colonial eras in both countries. Whether one looks back five years, 40 years, or three centuries, legacies of colonialism, post-colonial nationalism, insurgency and regional conflict, have combined to present a classic Catch-22 situation to the Philippines and Malaysia. And there are no easy solutions.

There are at least two competing narratives driving the Sabah dispute: claims by the British that Sabah had been ceded to them by the then Sultan of Sulu; and the claims of the Sultan himself that he had merely loaned Sabah to the British. This dispute would be passed down from that generation, to Philippine and Malaysian independence and beyond, with no clear resolution or satisfaction. Disputes remain over the fees paid to the Kirams by the Malaysian government (the former say it is a “rental” fee; the latter, a “cessation” fee), and the credibility or at least applicability of a 1963 United Nations-brokered referendum that Kuala Lumpur claims legitimized its claim of sovereignty over Sabah, generating enough heat to roil diplomatic relations.

The formation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was motivated in part by the need to simmer down territorial conflicts before they erupted into economy-damaging wars, potentially dragging other regional countries and global powers into the maw—which could have happened had Operation Merdeka, President Ferdinand Marcos’ abortive plan to infiltrate Filipino agents into Sabah, pushed through. (As it was, the massacre of those agents, the Jabidah Massacre, helped spark the Moro insurgency in Mindanao.)

One thing remains both clear and paramount among these conflicting narratives and competing facts. Even without a war breaking out between Manila and Kuala Lumpur (a very unlikely scenario), the events of the past few weeks threaten to reignite the Sabah dispute into a major diplomatic obstacle between our two states. Worse, unrestrained nationalist sentiments in both countries could lead to resentment (if not hostilities) between peoples—not governments, peoples, hints of which we have begun to see in the comments left on Philippine and Malaysian news sites and in social media.

Then there is the complication to the peace process to consider. The Bangsamoro Framework Agreement is a major step towards peace in the South, but the actions of the followers of Jamalul Kiram III have revealed how the history of competing narratives and unresolved claims can still drive conflict, insurgency, and other extra-legal action. The peoples of Mindanao must continue to walk down the path of peace, if the island is to have a bright future. Still facing them are major grievances of wealth sharing, security, political representation, and local rivalries and grudges, that have at times intersected with the Moro insurgency. Even the Bangsamoro agreement, which as its name implies is a framework for the remaining negotiations and efforts leading to the final peace agreement, is not designed to resolve everything in one stroke of a pen—and certainly not the Sabah dispute.

There was a reason that the decision was taken, after Merdeka, Jabidah, and Marcos’ fall, to simply leave the issue dormant, that there were dangers attendant to the claim. Should the dispute turn ugly, it will have unwelcome consequences for the Philippines, Malaysia, and our major regional and global allies. It could undermine the mutual non-intervention foundations of Asean, threatening the organization’s integrity in the face of Chinese territorial ambitions, and that country’s growing rivalry with the United States. Other countries might be forced to take sides, or at the least distance themselves from Manila and Kuala Lumpur for the duration of the dispute. Our growing economy would be harmed by prolonged conflict, particularly if it turns violent (again, even if short of war).

We pray that such a worst-case scenario would not come to pass, now or in the future. But the truth is that the Sabah dispute may never be satisfactorily resolved, certainly not within our lifetimes, without grave diplomatic consequences. The Philippines’ claim to the territory remains (dormant or not), but so do the rest of our diplomatic, security, and economic priorities. In the wake of the past few weeks, the priority of the moment is the need to first reestablish trust—with Malaysia and, yes, with the Sultanate of Sulu. It is through this trust that we hope to work with the followers of Kiram for a solution to their grievances through more productive, less dramatic means. It is through this trust that we hope to restore status quo ante with Kuala Lumpur, so that if we do discuss Sabah in the future (and perhaps we should), it will be in an amicable, respectful atmosphere, between peoples as well as governments.

Our mutually tangled histories, whether as the countries of the Philippines and Malaysia, or the former colonies of Britain, Spain, and the United States, or the pre-colonial Sultanates of Sulu and Brunei, need not doom our shared futures.

Facebook Page: Dean Tony La Viña Twitter: tonylavs
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