DFA sends envoy to end Sabah standoff

Undersecretary Jose Brillantes will coordinate with local authorities to help resolve peacefully the crisis

EXPERIENCED DIPLOMAT. DFA Usec Jose Brillantes was Philippine ambassador to Malaysia from 1996 to 2002. File photo by Carlos Santamaria

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government has sent to Malaysia its former ambassador to Kuala Lumpur to coordinate with local authorities and help resolve peacefully the standoff in Sabah, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Tuesday, February 26.

Foreign Undersecretary for Special and Ocean Concerns Jose Brillantes will assist and “help our ambassador in coordinating the peaceful and expeditious resolution of [the] issue in Lahad Datu,” DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters.

Brillantes traveled to Kuala Lumpur on Monday, February 25, and will remain there until further instructions, although the government has not ruled out sending him to Lahud Datu, where Filipino militants have been holed up since February 9 to assert their historical claim over Sabah as part of the Sulu Sultanate.

The DFA official and former ambassador to Malaysia has “some contacts [there] and he will be able to coordinate well with the Malaysian authorities to be able to achieve the objective of bringing our people back in to their respective homes in Mindanao,” the spokesman said.

“We don’t want to go into details because these are operational matters which we are not prepared to talk about in public,” Hernandez replied when asked about the specifics of Brillantes’ mission.

President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday warned Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III that he would face the “full force of the law” unless he withdrew his gunmen from Malaysia.

But the elderly leader remained defiant and demanded talks with Aquino and a share in the future profits of Sabah’s economic growth to tell his followers to stand down and return to the Philippines. with reports from Carlos Santamaria/Rappler.com

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