Aquino must hear Kiram, followers – bishops

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MANILA, March 7, 2013— President Benigno Aquino III should do more to address the grievances of the Tausugs who are currently fighting against Malaysian security forces, Catholic bishops said. 

Jolo Bishop Angelito Lampon said Mr. Aquino must ensure lines of communications are kept open instead of criticizing Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his followers. 

The church leaders are hoping that the government would consider softening its position against the disgruntled armed group that holed up in Sabah, Malaysia. 

“I know the government is trying to focus in Mindanao and its different community development projects but this claim (of the Tausugs) has long been there. We need a little attention,” he said. 

Lampon chairs the Episcopal Commission on Interreligious Dialogue (ECID) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. 

The Mindanao prelate believes that the claims of the Kirams have sufficient basis. 

“I would like to reiterate what the Sultan Kiram and for the whole people of Sulu, in Tawi-Tawi to attend to their concerns. They have grievances, which are legitimate,” Lampon added. 

The same sentiment was raised by Cagayan De Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, saying he is hoping for a more compassionate response from the government due to the issue’s sensitivity. 

“To Malacañang, they should handle the issue with sensitivity and with regard to the discipline of our Muslim brothers,” said Ledesma, ECID vice chair. 

The archbishop also expressed concern that the escalating violence in Sabah might affect the ongoing peace talks in Mindanao between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. 

“I hope this will not affect the Bangsamoro framework agreement because it’s so important for Mindanao today,” he said. 

Mr. Aquino yesterday insisted as wrong the move of Kiram to bring armed men to Sabah to assert the Sultanate’s ownership over the North Borneo territory. 

At least 30 people have reportedly been killed since the fighting between Kiram’s followers and Malaysian forces erupted late last month. (Roy Lagarde/CBCPNews)

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