POSTSCRIPT / March 19, 2015 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

Share on facebook
Share This
Share on twitter

Sabah claim traded in Bangsamoro deal?

SALES TALK: Throughout the negotiations between Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for the secessionist group to be given a piece of Mindanao, there has been no public mention of the unresolved Philippine claim on Sabah.

If President Noynoy Aquino, a known friend of Malaysian power brokers, does not explain his unusual silence on this 53-year-old issue between Manila and Kuala Lumpur, a public inquiry may be in order as in the Jan. 25 massacre of 44 elite police officers in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

It is disturbing that Malacañang embarked on peace/sales talk with the MILF without prior policy consultation with the Congress and without verifying if the armed band across the table is the legitimate voice of the Muslim community.

With the BBL debate dividing the nation, President Aquino has the duty to level with the people and say what the backroom deal on Sabah is.

* * *

WHY RENT IT?: Sabah is central to the creation of a Bangsamoro (a nascent Moro nation) that seeks to supplant and expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao established in August 1989 by mandate of the Constitution.

Part of the proposed Bangsamoro area is Sulu, together with communities in Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, South Cotabato, Davao Oriental, North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte and Maguindanao.

President Aquino cannot be unaware that the Sulu sultanate includes Sabah that Malaysia is renting from the sultanate for the equivalent of RM 5,300 (less than P75,000) yearly that is not even enough to pay for a decent apartment in Kuala Lumpur.

Malacañang has glossed over the unanswered question: If Malaysia indeed owns Sabah why is it paying rent for it to the Sulu sultanate?

* * *

SLUSH FUND: What will happen to Sabah if the Bangsamoro Basic Law is approved by the Congress dominated by Aquino allies, and the President, eagerly awaiting it, signs the BBL into law?

Before the Congress passes that midnight bill, President Aquino must allay fears that he has unilaterally entered into an understanding about relegating Sabah to the back burner while his gofers in the Congress cook the BBL.

Intelligence sources have it that Malaysia has a slush fund raised from the staggering revenue from Sabah’s timber and mineral resources now reportedly being used to influence key Filipinos, some of them in government.

* * *

MALAYSIA ROLE: The Sulu sultanate is still part of the Republic, and the Philippine government should exercise sovereign rights over the sultanate’s Sabah whatever Mr. Aquino’s friends in Kuala Lumpur and Johore think.

The Philippine claim on Sabah would dim if the Malaysia-leaning Bangsamoro that incorporates the sultanate is established with distinct state-like powers and prerogatives.

Asked on the Sabah issue, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., chair of the committee on local government looking into the BBL and the Mamasapano massacre, told Postscript yesterday:

“We must insist on our valid claim that Sabah is part of the Sultanate of Sulu and therefore of Philippine history and territory. History is on our side. That is why I wonder why Malaysia has to act as third party in the peace negotiations when really Malaysia is a party in interest.

“As in the Mamasapano incident, President Aquino should be forthright in disclosing the details of any understanding he may have had with Malaysia on sovereignty and proprietary issues over Sabah.”

* * *

ALARMING DROP: Mamasapano has become a tipping point in the continued dive in the survey showing of President Aquino, who has just dropped to 38-36 percent in his approval-trust ratings – the lowest since he took office in 2010 buoyed by scores topping 70 percent.

In its latest Ulat ng Bayan, polling firm Pulse Asia said Aquino’s approval rating dove from 59 percent last November to 38 percent this March, and his trust rating from 56 to 36 percent in the same period.

Given the product being marketed, something as alarming as this steep slide is not easy to brake. The most that could be done with a burst release of resources in the next quarter is to transform the downward trajectory on the chart to a plateau.

Unless his handlers perform a near-miracle, they would have a difficult time redirecting upward the plunging red lines.

* * *

BEND A BIT: Even assuming his communication team assisted by outside experts can put together a genius of a rehab PR plan, they could be frustrated by the well-known stubborn disposition of the client.

Is the product the main problem? For his own sake, President Aquino may have to bend a bit with the harsh winds now picking up in velocity and ferocity. It may not be prudent to meet the gathering negative forces head-on.

A hint may be gleaned from an incident in one family meeting where some elders with considerable political experience reportedly tried counseling Noynoy, who was then still adjusting to his uncomfortable throne.

Responding to some political advice, he reportedly shot back, probably exasperated with what he felt was undue meddling: “But I’m now the President!”

* * *

REACH OUT: Let me do my own meddling. It is given that Noynoy was not that ready for the awesome presidency. But it was not entirely his fault since the fast-developing situation merely threw him into the arena.

There are many such square pegs in round holes in government. The trick is to recruit the best and the brightest to do the thinking while the official simply acts out the leading role. Never mind the cost of hiring the best minds – it is not his money anyway.

But one problem is that Noynoy is slow to trust, probably because of the years of persecution of the family. His comfort zone is not that big and his circle of close friends small.

Noynoy’s executive performance is circumscribed by this small “KKK” circle. He should flex and reach out beyond his tiny coterie.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 19, 2015)

Share your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published.