Aquino warns sultan in Malaysia standoff
By Jason Gutierrez ,AFPMANILA -- Philippine President Benigno Aquino warned a sultan on Tuesday he would face the “full force of the law” unless he withdraws his gunmen from Malaysia, but the elderly ruler remained defiant.
February 27, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
Dozens of followers of the little-known Sultan of Sulu have been facing off with Malaysian security forces for two weeks, after they sailed from remote southern Philippine islands two weeks ago to stake a territorial claim.
With the incident causing increasing embarrassment to the Philippine government, Aquino made a nationally televised address on Tuesday to try to pressure the sultan into bringing his gunmen back from Malaysia's Sabah state.
“If you choose not to cooperate, the full force of the laws of the state will be used to achieve justice for all who have been put in harm's way,” Aquino said.
“This is a situation that cannot persist. If you are truly the leader of your people, you should be one with us in ordering your followers to return home peacefully.”
Aquino, flanked by his interior and justice secretaries, also warned the sultan that he may have broken laws, including one banning citizens from inciting war that carries a maximum prison term of 12 years.
But the 74-year-old sultan, Jamalul Kiram III, showed no signs of buckling, calling a press conference from his home in a poor Muslim enclave of Manila to insist the standoff would continue unless his demands were met.
“As far as we are concerned we have not committed (a) crime,” Kiram said, adding his followers cornered in a fishing village in Sabah on Borneo island would not initiate any violence with the Malaysian security forces.
“But we are prepared to defend our lives and aspirations.”
Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III answers questions from reporters at his house in suburban Taguig, south of Manila on Tuesday, Feb. 26. (AP)