POSTSCRIPT / March 10, 2013 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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How come there’s not a peep from the MILF?

WITCHHUNT: A political witchhunt like the one just launched by Malacañang will not solve, but might even worsen, the crisis developing around Sabah.

If President Aquino is convinced there is a conspiracy against him, using the Sulu sultanate’s claim on Sabah as the casus belli, he could pin down the cabal by quietly investigating without first broadcasting it.

If indeed there is a conspiracy, telegraphing Malacañang’s countermoves will only make the conspirators more careful. Determined plotters are not scared by speeches and press releases.

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MUSLIM VOICE: The President gave the Sabah crisis partisan color when he alleged that his political foes had linked up with Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram III and Nur Misuari, leader of the Moro National Liberation Front.

The sultanate and the MNLF, key players in Muslim affairs, have been left out in the Aquino administration’s grand plan to carve out a Bangsamoro sub-state in Muslim Mindanao.

The basic question keeps coming back: Why is Malacañang dealing only with the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front when it is not the sole and authentic voice of the five-million Muslim population?

The Palace is now reaping the violent objections of sectors, such as the sultanate and the MNLF, that had been left out.

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MILF QUIET: Now where is the MILF — the bloc pretending to represent the Muslims in their quest for their Bangsamoro — as Filipino Muslims who have settled home in Sabah are violently uprooted?

Why is the MILF quiet as President Aquino and his foreign secretary talk with their Malaysian counterparts and then agree with what Kuala Lumpur wants to do with Filipinos in Sabah?

What can the MILF say about their brothers being massacred in Sabah and being told by the President talking from the safety and comfort of Malacañang to lay down their arms and face charges?

If indeed the MILF is the legitimate voice of Muslim Filipinos, how come not a peep is heard from it? Is the MILF, like the President, collaborating with Malaysia?

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MARTIAL RULE: Talk of potent blocs moving together to capture the government brings to mind then President Ferdinand Marcos who declared martial rule in 1972 in his coup d’etat from the Center.

Mr. Marcos consolidated power in himself to thwart, he said, a conspiracy of the Left and the Right to seize control.

By Left he meant the communists and by Right he was referring to the oligarchs who had refused to kiss the hands of Mr. Marcos and his wife Imelda.

Critics of President Aquino are throwing back to him his conspiracy theory. This time around, they say, the only son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino has allowed the Left access to the levers of state power.

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RASUL INPUTS: But some concerned sectors, for their part, have come up with proposals to stop hostilities in Sabah on the way to a peaceful resolution of the claim.

The Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy, through its president Amina Rasul, has urged the government to form a committee under the Office of the President to concentrate on the claim.

With more urgency, she said, is the addressing of the bloody clashes in Lahad Datu where around 230 of the Sulu sultan’s followers, some of them armed, had settled. The fighting has spread to nearby kampongs.

Rasul said the Congress should pass a resolution expressing the sense of its two chambers on the crisis.

“The highly volatile situation calls for tempered and experienced leaders, knowledgeable about the underlying issues, to diffuse the tensions,” she said.

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MNLF NOTES: A big MNLF faction led by Cotabato City Vice Mayor Muslimin Sema called on the Malaysian government and the Sulu sultanate to jointly observe a ceasefire in Sabah.

The same call was made days ago by the United Nations. The sultanate has agreed, but Kuala Lumpur is adamant.

Sema said the conflict in Sabah could be resolved if all protagonists would agree to a dialogue based on Islamic teachings on consensus.

“Malaysia is not our enemy,” he said. “In fact, we regard Malaysia as a big brother for having helped us in the MNLF when we fought the Philippine government.”

He recalled how Malaysia gave sanctuary to MNLF members on some of its islands in the 1970s. Its fighters trained in Sabah, which is why they are familiar with its terrain as they fight together with the sultan’s forces.

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MONEY TALK: Money matters keep popping up when the Sabah question is discussed.

No less than President Aquino has said in televised remarks that sultan Kiram III has been accepting money from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office for his weekly dialysis.
Kiram, who admits being a poor sultan, does not deny receiving government assistance. (Btw, the sultanate receives from Malaysia a measly P70,000 A YEAR as rent for Sabah.)
That was a cheap shot by the President. Why gloat over the PCSO’s helping the sultan? After all, it is not his money or part of his multibillion-peso social fund.
 
* * *
 
MERCENARIES?: Still on money, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Kiram’s followers might have been lured into going to Lahad Datu with a promise of $600 each. The sultan denied this.
Lacierda said President Aquino would tell Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak “that there are ringleaders, and there were others who were deceived.”
He added: “We’ve seen also in some reports in media, that some of them… part of the royal sultanate forces, were paid $600… were promised to be paid $600. They were promised land, they were promised positions in the sultanate.”
This observer is still waiting for Lacierda to criticize, even just a bit, Malaysia’s cruel handling of Filipinos who had gone home to Sabah.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 10, 2013)

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