For the Philippine Sabah Claim Forum
23 October 2012
Let me be clear that the opinion I will present is entirely my own and does not represent anyone in the group.
We all have been discussing this Sabah claim for quite some time now. Some for about a year, some of us for many years, and even some, for almost a lifetime. However, the events of the past few days have threatened to make all these discussions moot and academic. Not only is there a possibility of losing Sabah completely but there is that real possibility of the disintegration of the country. I will not bother to discuss the so called Framework Agreement as this has already been dissected to death. We have also been discussing who the rightful Sultan of Sulu should be considering that the land that is the subject of discussion is the property of the Sultanate and its heirs. This is separate from the discussion of the sovereignty over the land. However, all of these are interrelated and cannot be separated from each other without affecting the other subject.
After objectively analyzing the different aspects of the different claimants, I have concluded that the best claims are among three individuals representing two lines of succession. Of these, the best claim is that of Jamalul. However, he suffers from an apparent disinterest by virtue of his continued residency in Manila. The next would be his Raja Muda Esmail who is acting Sultan for now. He tilts in favor of Malaysia owing to their stay there when Pres Marcos declared martial law. The last would be Muedzul, the son of Mahakuttah the last sultan.
Be that as it may, there are times when circumstances and the needs of the hour force us to alter our priorities. We are at a critical moment in our history and as irrelevant as it may seem to many in the rest of the country, the importance of having the right sultan in Sulu cannot be cannot be overemphasized. It can determine the fate of the Visayas and Mindanao as well.
To put it bluntly, the Philippines’ claim over Sabah hinges on the assignment of the Sultanate’s claim of sovereignty over the territory. If the sultan revokes that assignment and sides with Malaysia, it tremendously weakens any claim the Philippines has on Sabah. But worse would be if any state that would include Sulu, decides to join the Malaysian Federation, not only have we lost any claim on the most productive state in Malaysia but also the most productive areas of the Philippines as well.
The only way to forestall this possibility is to have a sultan who will ensure that Sulu and Tawitawi will remain Philippine territory.
He must likewise be a leader who can inspire his people and give them hope that they can have a better future ahead. For so long, our brothers in Sulu have had this perception that they are treated as second class citizens of this country. We have several occasions in history when kings have been replaced by others with better qualifications either through the will of the people or by force. In our own history, we have had two legally elected presidents deposed by others.
While there are many who all claim the title of Sultan, we have not seen anyone step into the shoes of a real leader. Someone who will inspire and lead his people to the greatness they once had. A leader who will restore their pride in their culture and in themselves. A leader the people will follow into battle if it need be.
At the moment, I can only see one man who fits this mold: Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram.
May he live to lead his people to the greatness they deserve.
*Teo Calasanz was a junior naval officer serving aboard RPS (BRP) Cebu in 1968 in a stand off with a small joint British and Malaysia flotilla near Turtle Islands when news broke out that Operation Merdeka, the first physical attempt by the Philippines to recover Sabah, had been discovered.
In picture: Sultan Muedzul Kiram with HM's Chief of Staff, Royal Armed Forces, Sultanate of Sulu & North Borneo (Sabah