Team PNoy on Sabah: Blame Kiram, not Aquino
PAMPANGA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Does the standoff in Sabah reflect on President Benigno Aquino III's leadership?
Team PNoy doesn't think so.
On the sidelines of a coalition sortie in Candaba town, bets saw the conflict as the fault of self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram and not Aquino's, saying he should have heeded the call of the President to withdraw their forces from Sabah.
They also denied that it reflected badly on their leader.
"If there is a firefight that is Mr. Kiram's problem. They should've withdrawn," said senatorial bet Ramon Magsaysay Jr. "There is no leadership issue with President Aquino."
Kiram has complained about Aquino's lack of assistance in the Sabah standoff, arguing he has chosen to protect or side with the Malaysians over them, who are Filipinos.
But Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas on Friday described the Kirams as "matigas ang ulo" (hard-headed).
Administratlion bet Sen Koko Pimentel agreed the government should serve its people, but defended the President on his decision to publicly tell Karim to leave Sabah.
"These [Karim and his men] are also Filipinos, the function of the government is to protest the abuse of its nationals," he said.
"But a leader [Aquino] should also be able to direct them to do something especially if it's for their own good."
Pimentel also agreed the Philippines should not drop its claim on Sabah, but refused to expand on what he thinks the government should do. He described the issue as complex.
He said he supported Aquino's decision to set up a committee to study the situation.
"Let us not drop the Sabah claim but few know what the Sabah claim is all about," he said. "They should educate the people."
Violence erupted in Sabah after Malaysian authorities on Friday, March 1, fired at Filipinos claiming the territory in a tense two-week standoff, the Sultanate of Sulu said.
In the past days, Aquino has warned Kiram of the consequences of continuing the standoff in Sabah, and has appealed for the end of it. He also condemed Karim's choice to take weapons there as a means to resolve the conflict.
Campaign manager Franklin Drilon told Rappler the coalition would take a common stance on the conflict, and will unite in backing the President.
In a statement, re-electionist and Team PNoy bet Francis "Chiz" Escudero said Aquino had made it clear from the very beginning, he was willing to hold a dialogue over Sabah with the heirs of the Sulu Sultanate -- if Kiram sent his followers home.
"It is my fervent hope that the issue will not be dragged into the political arena since it is a delicate issue involving national interest," Escudero said.
"My personal view is that the Sabah claim is a personal issue involving the Sultan of Sulu. It’s a private right and a private claim. He cannot say, however, that Sabah is part of the Philippines," he added.
Another administration candidate, Sen Loren Legarda, who was bestowed the title of honorary Muslim princess by the the Marawi Sultanate league, also voiced her support for Aquino and his disapproval over the use of weapons in the standoff.
“The first line of defense for Filipinos in the Sabah standoff is provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs. Diplomacy should prevail as we seek to encourage and assure our Filipino brothers in the standoff that there is a peaceful way of resolving their claims," she said in a statement.
"Clearly, it is not through the barrel of a gun that both parties can reasonably resolve the issues." - Rappler.com