Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) OIC-Governor Mujiv Hataman debunked reports that ARMM leaders have been silent about the Sabah crisis and allegedly doing nothing about the plight of Filipino nationals affected by the violent consequences of the conflict.
Contrary to insinuations he suspected as politically choreographed, Hataman said, ARMM line agencies have been providing relief services and goods for refugees arriving in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi from Sabah. The two island provinces are part of ARMM.
He said that upon his request, the government through the ARMM’s Regional Human Rights Commission has started documenting complaints about alleged abuses on Filipinos by Malaysian security agents.
“Apart from the relief operations and documentation processes, we have organized a pool of ARMM line agencies in coordination with other authorities to adopt mechanisms that would address big problems arising from an unlikely escalation of the Sabah crisis," Hataman told the Bulletin by phone.
He clarified that issuing a statement on the propriety of the Sulu Sultan’s claim of Sabah is a foreign policy matter only higher authorities like the President through the Department of Foreign Affairs are fit to do.
“That’s foreign policy decision we in ARMM have no authority to comment on,” Hataman said, adding that not all the autonomous region is part of the historical Sulu Sultanate and that the issue is involves Sultan Kiram III and the governments of Malaysia and the Philippines.
Hataman appealed for public prudence in issuing statements that may aggravate the Sabah crisis and imperil the Filipinos in the rich Malaysian state.
Earlier, militant individuals and civil society groups reportedly expressed disgust over the alleged “ARMM silence” on the Sabah conflict.
On Tuesday, the Philippine Council for Sama and Badjau, Inc. (PCSBI) said the ARMM leadership should sympathize with the thousands of Filipino nationals, mostly of Tausog descent, affected in the conflict, as well as the Sulu Sultanate’s claim of Sabah.
PCSBI Vice President Datu Hussayin Arpa alleged that instead of helping cushion adversities in the Sabah standoff, Hataman had visited the family of Kiram III only to convey to him “threatening” message from Malacañang.
Hataman’s alleged “harsh” representation had rather piqued the Sultan’s “royal army” to opt for violent means of claiming the rich Sabah state and fight Malaysian security forces.
“(Hataman) was lucky Datu Puing was not around, (otherwise) hindi sya makakabalik sa pinaggalingan,” Arpa averred, saying that such datu is the same person as Raja Muda Aggimuddin, the younger sibling of Kiram III leading the ’royal army” in the Sabah incursion.
Arpa did not state the date of Hataman’s negotiation with the Kirams, but observers said the “harsh” negotiation could be on or before President Aquino III issued a pronouncement ordering the Sulu Sultan’s armed followers in Sabah to “surrender” or face criminal charges.
Over a cable TV program in Davao City, Party List Rep. Teddy Casiño said that Kiram III had aired dismay about alleged “threatening” remarks conveyed to him by Malacañang negotiators’ in the early days of the Sabah standoff.
“Masamang balita ang dala nila. Nananakot sila,” Casiño quoted the Sulu Sultan as saying during their recent meeting at the latter’s house in Taguig City earlier.
In a report published online Tuesday, Hataman was reported of having “initiated” negotiations with the Kirams before the Sabah standoff erupted violently.
Arpa appealed to concerned authorities to end the Sabah crisis peacefully, claiming that his “reliable contacts” in the embattled state reported about alleged daily summary executions of Tausog men the Malaysian security agents suspected of supporting the Kiram III’s “royal army.”
“I was reliably told the summary executions were still going on, victimizing at least 20 people,” Arpa said.
He said the “salvaging” fatalities were apart from the 62 people slain based on Malaysian authorities’ accounts.