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MANILA, Philippines – Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II is meeting with the brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III as the Sabah standoff enters its 4th week.
Roxas is holding a meeting with Bantilan Esmail Kiram II in Camp Crame, Quezon City, on Monday, March 11. The Secretary said it was the Kiram family who sought the meeting over the weekend.
Esmail Kiram arrived with female members of the Kiram family.
The Secretary said he will see what Esmail’s message is.
“I think better na antayin natin ang message nila, kung ano talaga ang pakay nila at tayo naman, bukas tayong makinig sa suggestions at iba pang gusto nilang paratingin,” Roxas told reporters before meeting with Kiram. (I think it’s better to wait for their message, what their purpose really is and we are open to suggestions and other things they want to convey.)
Roxas said Esmail Kiram is the second Kiram brother, younger than Jamalul and older than Agbimuddin who is leading the Kiram followers in Sabah.
In a separate interview before the meeting, Esmail Kiram said he was informed Sunday night, March 10, that “the Secretary would like to see us.”
Kiram said his group has a “strategy” regarding the standoff, and will have to consult Roxas about the matter.
“Maybe the administration is only calling my attention, maybe to assess the possibility of a peaceful resolution …. We already have a starting point but we have to [review] the strategy that we have been trying to do,” Kiram said.
Roxas’ meeting with Esmail Kiram comes after a senior Cabinet official revealed that the administration initially planned to send him to Sabah a week before the March 1 firefight in Lahad Datu.
The government was making arrangements with the Malaysian government to recognize Esmail as an “emissary” who will end the standoff but the trip did not materialize.
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said last week that Sultan Jamalul Kiram III stopped Esmail from going to Malaysia and cooperating with the government.
“We tried to arrange [for] Esmail Kiram to go to Malaysia in order for them to speak to the Malaysian authorities. We were silent because the President was working on a peaceful resolution to this matter,” Lacierda told reporters on Friday, March 8.
“When Esmail Kiram decided to agree that he will go to Malaysia, we provided an airplane for him to go to Malaysia. Unfortunately, Mr Jamalul Kiram rejected it. He said, ‘no, you can’t go to Malaysia’. And so, where are we now?,” Lacierda added.
The spokesman also said there were at least 3 secret meetings with the government and the Kirams between February 17 to 22. It was ARMM Gov Mujiv Hataman who talked to them. The meetings happened at the house of the Kirams in Taguig, at the Resorts World and The Fort.
Lacierda said the government could not talk about the plan then because they initially wanted backdoor negotiations to end the standoff.
Esmail Kiram is set to hold a press briefing Monday afternoon after his meeting with Roxas. – Rappler.com