MANILA, April 1, 2013— Outraged with the government’s handling of the ongoing Sabah standoff, the Sultanate of Sulu asked the support of Catholic bishops to resolve the crisis.
Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III met with the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Monday afternoon and raised their concerns over the territorial dispute.
Kiram also informed Archbishop Jose Palma, CBCP president, of the alleged human rights abuses committed by the Malaysian government against Filipinos in Sabah.
The Sultan was accompanied by her daughter Princes Jaycel Kiram, Sultanate of Sulu spokesperson Abraham Idjirani, Pastor Boy Sayco and Atty. Dante Jimenez.
The group said they will also provide the CBCP with a video showing how the Malaysian authorities maltreated the Filipinos.
“We have videos from some deportees from Sabah and we’ll hand this copy to the CBCP on Wednesday through Mr. Jimenez showing the abuses against Filipinos in Sabah before they were killed,” Princes Jaycel said.
“We went here to personally thank the Bishop— and also to show the Muslim-Christian solidarity in the Philippines…there are Christians also in Sabah,” she said.
Palma assured Kiram that he will bring the matter of the Sabah crisis not just to the CBCP Permanent Council but even to the Vatican.
“Of course they were hoping that I’m able to find a way as a bishop but I haven’t promised really much except that I will seek the advice of people who I believe can help in this situation,” Palma said.
“At the moment, I have no particular person in mind. I believe there are agencies in Rome that can be of service in this regard,” he added.
Palma first met with Kiram and his party at his office in Intramuros, Manila before leaving for Rome this evening to attend the International Eucharistic Congress.
The meeting, which lasted for almost half an hour was arranged by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Gausbaug Coalition for Peace and Humanitarian Resolution of Sabah.
The CBCP leader said the situation in Sabah is not about religion anymore but about the search for peace and harmony.
“Basically it’s like brothers going to brothers and say there is a bond between us and that’s the bond that unites people who search for peace,” said Palma.
“As we say, there is Christian and Muslim way of searching for peace especially of course in the situation of Sabah,” he added.
Jimenez described the archbishop’s trip to the Vatican as “very timely”.
“He is attending a very timely meeting where he promised to bring this matter to any council in Rome especially to the attention of the new pope (Francis),” he said.
“In fact, I didn’t know that he is going to Rome. Jaycel here is saying it must have been divine providence intervening now and I agree with that,” Jimenez said.
Saycon, the adviser of the Sulu Sultan, said they are hoping that the pontiff will at least issue a global appeal for peace.
“We at least expect a global appeal for peace. The sultanate also wants peace. What it really wants to do is sit down and talk. So why is it so hard for these people to understand that dialogue is better than war,” he said.
“From the very beginning, that is just our appeal that we only want dialogue with them. For both the Malaysia and Philippine government if they really want this issue to be resolved, prove it,” said Jaycel.
It was back in February 12 when Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram and a group of about 200 people, some of them armed, holed up at the Lahad Datu in Sabah in a bid to reclaim what they say as rightfully belonging to the Sultanate of Sulu.
Aquino has repeatedly condemned the actions of the Kiram group and has continuously asked them to leave Sabah immediately.
The government also warned that they will file charges against Kiram’s followers for illegal possession of firearms and inciting to war.
On the other hand, Malaysian authorities have since conducted a series of attacks, resulting to several deaths among Kiram’s followers and have charged some of the 100 currently in police custody. (Roy Lagarde)