Press Release
March 1, 2013


Senator Chiz Escudero lamented the turn of events in Sabah after media reports stated that 10 followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III were killed and four wounded in a clash with Malaysian soldiers while at the same time calling on the government to act quickly to assure the safety of some 800,000 stateless ethnic Filipinos living in Sabah.

"It saddens me that the deadline given by Malaysian authorities on our countrymen had lapsed and that violence had to be resorted to in ending the standoff," he said.

"Whether we agree or not with what the followers of the Sultan of Sulu did, it is very disheartening to know Filipinos were shot or massacred as a result of the lapse in the deadline," Escudero said. President Benigno Aquino III had made it clear from the start of the standoff that he was willing to hold a dialogue with the heirs of the Sulu Sultanate over their claim on Sabah if Kiram will order his followers to return home.

"It is my fervent hope that the issue will not be dragged into the political arena since it is a delicate issue involving national interest," Escudero said.

"My personal view is that the Sabah claim is a personal issue involving the Sultan of Sulu. It's a private right and a private claim. He cannot say, however, that Sabah is part of the Philippines," Escudero added.

The senator said the country's interest should be detached from the private claim of the Sulu Sultanate since involving the whole nation in it may affect our good relations with Malaysia. The incident, however, opens the opportunity for the government to inquire with Malaysian authorities on the condition of 800,000 Filipinos living in Malaysia, Escudero said.

He supports the position of the Aquino administration in zeroing in on the welfare of Filipinos who were born and raised in Sabah which is a major humanitarian issue since their stateless status makes them vulnerable to abuse in Malaysia.

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas had said assuring the safety of the 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah is being addressed through diplomatic channels.

Filipinos living in Sabah were reportedly subject to frequent exploitation by Malaysian authorities since they do not have citizenship, according to Escudero.

Escudero also urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to immediately set up a representative office in Sabah to document the stateless Filipinos to resolve their status and make available to them basic government services.

"The welfare of our countrymen who consider Sabah as their homeland should be the focus of the government's negotiations with the Malaysian government," Escudero said.

"Siguro pagkakataon na rin natin ito na tutukan yung kapakanan ng humigit-kumulang 800,000 Pilipino na nandoon sa Sabah na hindi kinikilala ng Malaysia ngunit ayaw din naman nila kumuha ng Philippine passport dahil baka paalisin sila sa Sabah kung nasaan yung trabaho nila," (It opens the government to the chance of looking into the welfare of 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah who are not recognized by Malaysia but who still choose not to acquire a Philippine passport because of their fear that they will be sent home from Sabah), Escudero said.

Giving the Filipinos in Sabah the government's attention is incumbent with what is transpiring right now in Sabah, he said.

News Latest News Feed