Commonwealth Elementary School prepares for the school opening on June 3
MANILA, Philippines - Will the real sultan of Sulu please stand up?
The world has come to know Sultan Jamalul Kiram III because of the bloody standoff in Sabah involving his brother and several dozen followers, who sailed to Lahad Datu to stake the family's claim on the disputed territory.
But Kiram is only one of the descendants of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu. Meet Ibrahim Bahjin-Shakirullah II, referred to as the "Paramount Sultan" of the Royal House of Patikul. He was supposedly elected in 2004 or 2005 by royal datus and princesses to represent them.
Speaking before students of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law students on Friday, March 15, Ibrahim Bahjin-Shakirullah II lamented how they are being ignored by the national government and the media.
He was invited to speak at the forum on "The Sultanate of Sulu and Its pursuit to Reclaim Sabah," where former UP College of Law Dean Merlin Magallona explained in full detail the legal basis of the claim of the Sultante of Sulu to Sabah. Magallona maintained that the United Kingdom did not have the right to cede sovereignty over Sabah to Malaysia.
As "Paramount Sultan," Bahjin Shakirullah said he represents the other sultans in "admonishing" Sultan Jamalul Kiram III for his "unilateral action" in Sabah. He also called on the other sultans to finally unite and decide what to do with Sabah.
The other sultans disapproved of Kiram's move, he said. "It's a unilateral action done by one of our colleagues without the consent of the royal datus, without the consent of the royal houses. Not even with the government of the republic of the Philippines, there was no consent," he said.
But he said it's not enough to just admonish Kiram. Now that their people face peril in Sabah, all the sultans must come together to seek a peaceful solution to the standoff.
"I am here calling on the other sultans and the sultanates. We are accepting them all [who claim to be descendants of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu.] We [should] come up with a collegial decision to act on this crisis now," he said.
"We have admonished the unilateral action but we have come to the stage of a shooting war already. We have to do something for the benefit of our brothers who are put in peril as consequence of this unilateral action," he added.
Asked if he himself has already talked to Kiram, Bahjin-Shakarullan said: "I call the other sultans. I have called them several times already." But they're stubborn, he said.
A call for unity
The sultans of Sulu have long been attempting to come to a collective stand on Sabah but to no avail. Bahjin-Shakarullah said he hopes that the Sabah crisis would compel the sultans to finally resolve it.
Bahjin-Shakarullah said they are willing to accept assistance from anyone -- the Philippine government, Filipino citizens, the Moro National Liberal Front, and even the extremist Abu Sayyaf.
He said he welcomes the talks between Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II and Ismael Kiram II to discuss disengagement, but he maintained that it is best for the national government to gather all the sultans and discuss the matter.
"If the talk has positive effects on this impasse in Sabah, I would gladly [welcome it]. I still maintain that talks should be done not by talking separately to the sultans. Talk to the sultans as a whole to make a collegial stand," he said.
"We are ready to accept any form of outside assistance from anyone - from the government of the Philippines, from the citizens of the Philippines. We accept any advice that could mean the safety of our colleagues," he said.
International law expert Harry Roque, a professor at the UP College of Law, called on the government to save the Filipinos in Sabah.
"I have no personal knowledge about [Malacañang's] conspiracy [theory]. Even if it were true, it would not be a reason to abdicate on the inhenerent obligation of the state to protect its nationals. If the Philippine government cannot discharge its basic obligation to its people - to protect them- what can it do?," said Roque.
"Let's not even talk about conspiracy. Let's contemplate how to protect Filipino nationals when they are in trouble. If we can appeal for clemency for convicted drug mules and for someone like Flor Contemplacion, why can't we do the same thing for 200 of our nationals who are now really sitting ducks in the island of Sabah," Roque added.
Bahjin-Shakirullah said they welcome all assistance to end the impasse - including assitance from the Moro National Liberal Front and the Abu Sayyaf. "We don't recognize whether they are MNLF, MILF, or Abu Sayyaf. They are all Raayats of the sultanate. It is their moral responsibility to help their brothers," he said.
Old documents show that the Royal Sultanate of Sulu has given the Philippine government the authority to assert the Sabah claim.
Bahjin-Shakarullah maintained that they have the power to revoke this agreement if they find that the Philippine government is not pursuing its claim.
But Roque disagreed with him. Roque said the Sultanate of Sulu doesn't have the power to revoke the authority it has already given the Philippine government.
Bahjin-Shakarullah insisted however that "there is an automatic revocation of this power of attorney."
Roque joins former UP College of Law Dean Merlin Magallona in arguing for the Sultanate of Sulu's rights over Sabah. In the same forum, Magallona presented how the United Kingdom could not have ceded its sovereignty over Sabah to Malaysia because the sovereignty over the territory belongs to the Sultanate of Sulu. - Rappler.com