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As I See It

They’re making Agbimuddin Kiram a hero

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The Malaysian government and P-Noy’s administration are fast making heroes of Agbimuddin Kiram, crown prince of the Sultanate of Sulu, and his followers, who are now being chased and killed by overwhelming Malaysian security forces in Sabah. The persecution of Filipinos in Sabah is no different from the persecution that the American Indians and African Americans suffered in the hands of white immigrant settlers from Europe. If Agbimuddin is killed, that would make him a bigger hero, like the heroes of the Philippine Revolution who were chased and killed by Spanish, American, and, later, Japanese, colonizers.

Agbimuddin, brother of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, is now a legend among the Muslim Filipinos, with the way he and his vastly outnumbered band have been able to elude the Malaysian forces.

Years from now, the story of the Sultanate of Sulu and its heroes and how they were oppressed and persecuted by the Malaysian and Philippine governments will be told and retold in Muslim Filipino homes. Books will be written about them and movies will be filmed about them, the same way the plight of the American Indians and African Americans in the past has been told. We have to admit that the story of the Kirams, from the first sultan who helped quell a revolt against the Sultan of Brunei and was given Sabah in gratitude for his help, to the aging and sickly current sultan, to his daughter, pretty Princess Jacel, to Agbimuddin, is very interesting.

The behavior of P-Noy regarding the Sabah crisis is really infuriating. “Surrender without conditions and come home,” he told the sultan’s followers in Sabah. Some of them did and tried to come home voluntarily in speedboats. So what did P-Noy’s administration do? It intercepted 36 of them while they were trying to come home, arrested and detained them, and filed charges against them.

Meanwhile, eight Filipinos in Sabah have been arrested by Malaysian police and criminal charges filed against them. If convicted, they face execution or life imprisonment. One hundred more face similar charges. They are not combatants but Filipinos living in Sabah.

These Filipinos, constituents of President Aquino, are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they come home, the Aquino administration will arrest and prosecute them. If they stay in Sabah, the Malaysian government will arrest and prosecute them. So what are they to do? They might as well stay and die fighting, take some of the Malaysians with them, and be welcomed by dozens of virgins in the afterlife.

Hundreds of Filipinos living in Sabah did come home to Tawi-Tawi but the President complains of the amount of money his administration will have to spend for them. These are some of the overseas Filipino workers whom we call “economic heroes,” and who send their earnings to the Philippines which help keep the economy afloat. Now that they are being forced to come home and need help, P-Noy complains about the expense.

Why not stop bribing members of Congress with the pork barrel and use the billions of pesos to help the refugees? The Commission on Audit has discovered that much of the pork barrel is being channeled to fake, fictitious and nonexistent nongovernment organizations.

All the P-Noy administration has to do to stop the corruption caused by the pork barrel is not to include an appropriation for it in the budget proposal to Congress. Members of Congress cannot put it there by themselves. So, no budget proposal for the pork barrel, no corruption. I thought P-Noy wants to stamp out corruption. Why doesn’t he stop the biggest cause of it?

“Let’s talk on Sabah,” P-Noy said. We thought he was asking Malaysia to negotiate on Sabah. Wrong. He was addressing that to the Kirams. Yet that was what the sultan had always said: “Let’s talk.” That’s what he had always wanted from the very beginning.

My house is open. You can come anytime, the sultan had said repeatedly. But government officials don’t talk with him. Instead, they talk with his brother, who has no authority to commit to anything. If they don’t want to go to his home in Taguig, why don’t they give him taxi fare to go to Malacañang so they can talk?

In fact, the sultan was forced to send his followers to Sabah to force Malaysia to negotiate. Malaysia has ignored his repeated pleas to talk about the Sabah claim. He has sent letters to P-Noy regarding the claim, but Malacañang allegedly “lost” the letters. Lost or disregarded?

The Malaysian and Philippine governments should talk to the sultanate to end the Sabah crisis. Killing and jailing the sultan’s followers will not solve the problem but only worsen it. So face the music now and talk. It took the Jews centuries to reclaim their homeland, Israel. The Sulu Muslims will keep fighting that long to reclaim their own homeland.

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ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Margaux Salcedo sings your favorite songs from Broadway musicals and the movies tonight at the Tap Room of the Manila Hotel. At a time when most contemporary singers shout and scream their songs, Margaux croons the ballads as if singing only for you. She reminds you of the great female crooners of the past—Doris Day, Connie Francis, Joni James, Patti Page, Jo Stafford, etc.

The guests at Monday’s Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel are Princess Jacel Kiram of the Sultanate of Sulu, her personal lawyer, and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. They will, of course, speak on the Sabah crisis.


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