Sultan followers face what case?

Ayee Macaraig
Vice President Binay also recalls meeting Kiram accidentally last month

CONFLICT. Sabah remains on high alert as the standoff drags

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay said he does not see what case the government can file against followers of the Sultanate of Sulu.

In an interview here on Sunday, March 3, Binay responded to the government’s plan to possibly sue Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his followers who went to Sabah to pursue their claim. (Kiram stays in his home in Taguig.)

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima last week said government lawyers are studying what possible charges to be filed against the Sultan’s followers.

Binay, a former human rights lawyer said, “’Di ko malaman doon ang nagsasabi [na] ang mga nagpunta doon ay magkakakaso. Anong kaso? Leaving the Philippines?” (I do not know why there are those who say that the people who went to Sabah will face charges. What case?)

The Vice President added, “Iniisip ko nga eh. May sinasabing ang mga nagpunta doon, ihahabla. Ano kaya ang magiging kaso?” (I’m trying to think what case can be filed. There are those saying that they should be sued. I wonder what case will be filed.)

Binay made the statement as the standoff claimed the lives of 7 more people in a fresh clash over the weekend, bringing the death toll to 19.

In a televised address last week, President Benigno Aquino III warned Kiram that he and his group face possible violations including Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, which states that the Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy.

Aquino said the enabling law of the section is Article 118 of the Revised Penal Code, which punishes those who “provoke or give occasion for a war… or expose Filipino citizens to reprisals on their persons or property.”

‘Don’t alienate parties’

Binay reiterated his call for sobriety, stressing its urgency to prevent more bloodshed.

Eh talagang kailangan magawa lahat ng pamamaraan para maiwasan ang violence. Kailangan mag-usap-usap. Paano ba tayo magkakasundo,” Binay said. (We need to find a way to avoid violence. We need to talk. How do we reach an agreement?)

Binay’s senatorial candidates in the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) have criticized the Aquino administration’s response to the Sabah standoff and even compared it to the government’s handling of the 2010 Manila hostage crisis.

Former Sen Richard Gordon has also called on President Benigno Aquino III and Malacañang to stop speaking on the issue and let the Department of Foreign Affairs do the talking “to avoid painting the president in a corner.”

Asked about this, Binay said, “Eh siguro gumawa ng ibang pamamaraan. Hindi makakalutas doon sa violence. Sa totoo lang, mag-aral tayo na hindi ma-alienate ang parehong parties kasi nagkakapatayan na eh. ‘Yun ang problema doon ngayon.” (Maybe we can look for other ways. This will not be resolved through violence. We should study the issue so we do not alienate either parties because there are already fatalities.)

Binay said it is important to prevent all parties from hardening their positions.

He also recalled meeting with Kiram accidentally in Manila last month.

Si Sultan Kiram was talking about his claim pero ang sabi ko nga sa kanya, sana maiwasan natin ang violence.” (Sultan Kuram was talking about his claim but I told him I hope this does not become violent.) “Ang panggagalingan ng violence, siyempre mga baril. ‘Pag magkakausap-usap [maiiwasan ito] kaya lang sumiklab na eh.” (Violence starts with guns. We should talk but the violence already began.) – Rappler.com

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