It was supposed to be a symbolic act to reoccupy Sabah by the followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III led by Raha Muda Agbimudding, nurtured after being completely left out in the so-called peace accord by the government with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front brokered and witnessed by Malaysia. The price ended up in the killing of about 60 Filipino Muslims holed up in Lahad Datu.
The slaughter of Filipino-Muslims has catalyzed the truth that Sabah is the ancestral homeland of the Tausugs and the Samals, and the people of Sulu, Tawi Tawi and Sabah are one and the same, and historically under the sovereign dominion of the Sultan of Sulu. The deception of the so-called “Jabida Massacre” was foisted to mislead us into discrediting Marcos and to obviate the truth that Sabah, by historic right and by legal title, belongs to the Sultan of Sulu with the ultimate sovereignty residing in the Philippines.
Hundreds were summarily executed as alleged spies, and thousands of indigenous Tausugs and Samals living in Sabah loyal to the Sultan of Sulu deported as alleged illegal Filipino immigrants. The ethnic cleansing carried out by Malaysia in Sabah, and populating their colonized territory with Malays, Chinese and Tamils from the Malay Archipelago went unnoticed just as the world failed to condemn that act of genocide.
The propaganda campaign was relentless that Malaysia easily found a stooge willing to ignite the flames of war right in our own backyard. Nur Misuari and his Moro National Liberation Front were purposely programmed to carry out a secessionist war. Misuari, at the height of his rebellion, even dreamed of creating an expanded “Moro homeland” comprising the whole of Mindanao, Palawan, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi Tawi, but surprisingly omitting Sabah. Neither did Misuari raise the issue of its future status in his negotiations with the government nor with Malaysia; whether the MNLF agrees to the idea of handing Sabah to the Malaysians or would seek to restore it to the Sultanate of Sulu pursuant to House Resolution No. 42 passed on April 28, 1950.
Political analysts could sense that Misuari’s refusal to sign the 1976 failed Tripoli Agreement was more of his fear of losing the support of his broker who then was not receptive to the idea of the MNLF reaching a peace agreement with the government. The distraught of Malaysia was on the increasing realization of the Tausugs and Samals headed by the Sultan that as they carry on the proxy war to create their own “Bangsa Moro republic,” ultimately they would end up losing their homeland.
It came therefore as no surprise why right after Misuari began to negotiate with the government did the Moro Islamic Liberation Front headed by Hashim Salamat came into being. The signing of the Djakarta Accord in 1996 with the Ramos government was a face-saving attempt by Misuari to keep himself politically afloat. Misuari had to bargain hard to get the position of governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and to be appointed head of the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development. All that transpired without the support and cooperation of Malaysia. Nonetheless, the Djakarta Agreement in Section 153 promised to implement the Tripoli Agreement that never legally came into being.
The 1987 Constitution, under the auspices of the so-called “Revolutionary Government” of Mrs. Aquino, made a modification on the definition of our National Territory in Article 1 omitting the phrase “historic right and legal title,” seen as our implied move to drop our Sabah claim. That was confirmed after Mrs. Aquino announced her government’s intention to drop our claim. Later, Senator Shahani in 1998 introduced a bill seeking to redefine our Baseline Territory excluding Sabah in our map, but withdrew it because of adverse reaction. Ramos made an attempt to open a consular office in Kota Kinabalu, but was forced to shelve the idea due to strong objections. Finally, in 2009, the usurping Arroyo government finally passed the Philippine Baseline Law.
Because of our unending political bickering and indecisiveness to pursue a defined foreign policy, we were again caught with our pants down unaware that Malaysia already succeeded in splitting the Muslim secessionist movement by their creation of a new surrogate—the MILF. The MILF, to the delight of Malaysia, pushed the fighting from our borders in Sulu and Zamboanga right into our heartland in Central Mindanao. Malaysia’s shift of support to another Muslim group composed mainly of Maranao, Maguindanao and other Muslim tribes in Central Mindanao removed the anxiety their newly bankrolled armed group would turn their backs on them.
Malaysian operatives in the MILF, with the Arroyo government’s cooperation, succeeded in isolating Misuari. That was finalized by his ouster from the 15-man MNLF council in 2001. Surprisingly, after that, the MILF became receptive to the idea of opening talks with the government. Although they toned down their original demand for independence, they however insisted for the recognition of their so-called “ancestral domain”, which is proximate to acknowledging legitimate ownership to a territory with a right of free disposition to secede. Despite the acrimonious objection, President Aquino continued the talks until it was finally signed on October 15, 2012 sagaciously initiated by the present dispensation of President Noynoy Aquino.
How that version of the autonomy for our Muslim brothers in Central Mindanao would work or how the so-called “ancestral domain” will be interpreted without infringing on the territorial integrity of the Republic remains a 64-dollar question. One thing was evident: The agreement entered into in 2012 saw Malaysia conspicuously present and active, exactly the opposite of its conduct during the negotiations that led to the signing of the peace accord in 1996. Most unfortunate, the Sultan of Sulu and our Sabah claim was never included in the discussions even by inference, despite the fact that the bloody secessionist war began with it.