By Joey Natividad
CITY OF NAGA, Bicol Region (BicolToday.com/27-Feb-2013) – Senator Chiz Escudero called for peaceful solution to the Sabah standoff crisis which might trigger a rift between Philippine and Malaysian diplomatic relations, raising concern over the fate of stateless Filipinos who are followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiran and have roots in Sabah.
He also backed President Benigno Aquino III’s demand for Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram to recall home 130 of his followers, some of whom are armed, who chose to be holed up in Lahad Datu in Sabah and are now involved in a standoff with Malaysian forces.
Earlier, President Aquino, in a televised address, said it is incumbent that Kiram orders his followers to leave Sabah peacefully while the government arranges a dialogue with him to arrive at a common position on the Sabah claim.
Aquino had already warned the followers of Kiram that they are possibly violating the Constitution and other laws and that they would be made accountable for these infractions.
Escudero said his main concern is a peaceful end to the standoff between Malaysian authorities and the followers of Kiram and the welfare of Filipino descendants who remain without a state as they are considered by Malaysian authorities as illegal immigrants.
“Bringing the supposed Sabah heirs and government representatives in one table would allow discussions on the complex issues involved in the Sabah claim including the plight of Sabah residents who have Filipino roots,” Escudero informed Bicol Today.com.
He said a dialogue on the Sabah claim should include the Malaysian government to address the plight of Filipinos living in Sabah and who are reportedly subject to frequent exploitation.
“The immediate concern of the government should be the welfare of Filipinos who were born and raised in Sabah which is the bigger humanitarian issue that must be addressed through diplomatic channels,” Escudero stressed.
He had earlier urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to set up a representative office in Sabah to document Filipinos who are stateless and deprived of social services from both the Malaysian and Philippine governments.
“The welfare of our countrymen who consider Sabah as their homeland should be the focus of any government negotiation with the Malaysian government,” Escudero said.
He said Filipinos in Sabah pose a unique diplomatic dilemma for the government since the decision to maintain a status quo, which favors the good relations between the Philippines and Malaysia, leaves open questions on the fate of our countrymen born and raised in it. [BicolToday.com]