Erap won’t hit PNoy on Sabah

Ayee Macaraig

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Former President Joseph Estrada says Aquino has not abandoned the Philippines' claim to Sabah

'NOT ABANDONING CLAIM.' Former President Joseph Estrada says President Aquino has not abandoned the Philippines' claim to Sabah. Unlike his senatorial candidates, he refuses to attack Aquino on the issue.

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – While his senatorial candidates are on the offensive, former President Joseph Estrada will not fault President Benigno Aquino III for the Sabah standoff.

In a press conference here on Sunday, March 3, the leader of the so-called “constructive opposition” United Nationalist Alliance held back from attacking Aquino.

The briefing was held hours before an opposition sortie in the city as part of the slate’s Mindanao campaign leg

“I still believe we have a claim over Sabah. We should not abandon that claim. Wala naman siyang (Aquino) sinabing inaabandon na niya ang ating claim,” Estrada said. (He has not said anything about abandoning our claim.)

An Aquino supporter, the former President added that he is not inclined to give the President unsolicited advice. Instead, Estrada just hopes Aquino will not abandon the Philippines’ claim to Sabah. 

“The only solution now is to avoid bloodshed and violence. We should let the International Court of Justice take over. In my view, [instead of] having a war now, let us just elevate to the International Court of Justice. Right now, I don’t see how [else] we can solve the problem.”

Estrada enjoys good ties with Aquino and his late mother, former President Corazon Aquino. He often cites how Aquino’s mother apologized to him for her role in his ouster in 2001.

Estrada’s position is in contrast with that of his senatorial bets in the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) who compared government’s handling of the issue to its response to the Manila hostage crisis.

Like in the hostage crisis, UNA senatorial candidates said the administration bungled the Sabah issue, leading to bloodshed.

“It smacks of arrogance that they always say, ‘We will not talk to you until you pull out troops from Sabah.’ The impression is they do not want to talk until the people return. It reminds me of what happened in the Manila hostage crisis,” resigned Sen Juan Miguel Zubiri said in the same press briefing.

On Sunday, news broke that 7 people including 5 Malaysian policemen died in a fresh clash in Sabah. Last Friday, March 1, Malaysia said 12 Filipinos died in a gunfight along with two police officers.

One of the early challenges in the Aquino administration, the Manila hostage crisis led to the death of 8 tourists and the hostage-taker in August 2010.

The government drew flak for its response, which violated crisis management and negotiation protocols. A panel recommended charges against several officials but the Palace reversed some of the findings, sparing key allies.

Zubiri said government’s response to the two crises is alike. “Pinabayaan sa baba. Sarado ang diplomatic, communication lines.” (They left it on the ground. The diplomatic, communication lines were not open.)

“Iyan ang problema sa mga kapatid natin sa Liberal Party, ayaw nila makipag-usap kahit kanino. Kung ‘di ka kasama, out ka.” (That’s the problem with our friends in the Liberal Party, they don’t want to talk to just anyone. If you’re not part of their group, you’re out.) 

‘Aquino painting self into corner’ 

Former Sen Richard Gordon went as far to say that Aquino may be impeached for betrayal of public trust.

Gordon cited RA 5446 defining the baselines of the territorial sea of the Philippines. Quoting the law, Gordon said the definition of baselines is “without prejudice to the delineation of the baselines of the territorial sea around Sabah.”

“We have to ask the President: are you still in favor of getting Sabah? That is my question. Is the administration of President Aquino implementing this law that Sabah is ours or have we already abandoned the claim?”

Gordon also reiterated his stand for the President and Malacañang to stop speaking on the issue.

“The President should not be the one doing the talking here. It should be the [Department of Foreign Affairs], ambassadors so he does not paint himself into a corner.”

The former senator also related the issue to the elections.

“That’s why it’s important you have an opposition in government. Nobody will tell the emperor he has no clothes.”

Erap brings up Lim rivalry 

While Zubiri was explaining similarities between the Sabah and hostage crisis response, Estrada butted in and veered the issue to his rivalry against Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.

Estrada is running for Manila mayor, challenging his former ally who now belongs to Aquino’s Liberal Party. Their rivalry is heating up ahead of the campaign period for local candidates on March 29.

The former President said Lim was responsible for the hostage crisis.

“I am from Manila. I know what happened there. Even the time the late Jesse Robredo was appointed [Interior] Secretary, he was only told to take care of the local government, but the police he gave it to Rico Puno.”

Estrada issued a veiled threat against Lim.

“The one who handled the hostage crisis was Mayor Lim. That’s the truth. And I have all the documents to prove that.” –


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