MHC To Aquino: “Claim Sabah, Protect Filipinos”

by Joseph G. Lariosa


CHICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) – A Filipino American group promoting immigrants and human  rights had appealed to Philippine President Noynoy Aquino “to assert its ownership of the northern Bornean (Sabah) territory and protect the Filipino people, who are right now being killed and violated upon by the Malaysian government, who also asserts its ownership of the land.”

Arnedo Valera, executive director of the Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) based in Washington, D.C., said the “Cessation of hostilities and a peace process must begin. We can’t lose more innocent lives. The Philippine government must negotiate on the position of strength. Our claim to Sabah is absolute.”  There have been 27 Filipinos reportedly killed in the Sabah standoff.

Valera, a human rights, international law and immigration lawyer, issued the call during MHC’s traditional Misa ng Bayan (Mass of the People) on March 3.

Valera said, “MHC’s interest is the protection of innocent women and children, and the Tausug tribe. There are about 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah.

“Sabah is part of our territory. We, at MHC, believe we need not balance the issue. We should take a stand. The President is not standing by our claim and more so not securing and protecting our people in Sabah.”

Valera said a bilateral talk between Malaysia and the Philippines must be done immediately as well as multi-lateral negotiations with ASEAN countries.  The case can also be brought to the UN or the International Court of Justice and even the US could be asked to extend office for negotiations.


MHC said that the Aquino government is missing the historical perspective of the Sabah claim. “Pres. Aquino cannot simply condemn Sultan Kiram for what he did. Aquino’s political posturing is a sign of weakness. You cannot assert and negotiate your rightful claim from a weak position. You negotiate from strength and articulate your political resolve that Sabah is your territory. Our claim is under International Law and even on existing laws on property ownership,” said Valera.

Valera said MHC leans heavily on the arguments raised by former Congressman and later Senator Jovito Salonga.  During a privilege speech he delivered in 1962, he opposed his fellow lawmaker from Rizal province,  Sen. Lorenzo Sumulong, then chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Sumulong urged President Diosdado Macapagal to drop the claim to Sabah, accusing Macapagal government of “gross ignorance holding an unbelievable disdain (in) the Philippine position of the British-sponsored Malaysia plan” to annex Sabah.

Congressman Salonga accused Sumulong of delivering a “consistently derogatory of the Philippine claim” on the eve of the talks with Philippine delegation in London, which was due to present its position in the negotiation to claim Sabah.

Sumulong statements, according to Salonga, “were seized upon by the English press with great delight, as if to show to the Philippine panel how well informed the senator was. It is, of course, not the fault of the senator that the British, in an admirable show of unity, enjoyed and were immensely fascinated by his press releases and statements.”


Salonga said, “(1) If the Senator (Sumulong) believes that the claim of sovereignty was so “tardily presented”, how could the proprietary claim of dominion or ownership — which is the main element of sovereignty — regardless of whether it is the Philippine Government or not that institutes the claim — be considered still seasonable and appropriate?

“(2) If the Senator suggests now that the proprietary claim is not yet tardy and that the Government should merely support, “the heirs of the Sultan” in this aspect of the claim, how can he turn around and say that it is late if it is the Government that is instituting the claim? Be it noted that the Philippine claim includes sovereignty and dominion over North Borneo. And

“(3) But what arouses my curiosity is the bald statement of the Senator that he is and has always been in favor of supporting the proprietary claims of the “heirs of the Sultan of Sulu.” Well, that must have been quite a long time! The Senator cannot therefore blame us, since he has invited and provoked the inquiry, if we now file a bill of particulars. Did he really support the proprietary aspect of the claim since he first became a member of the House of Representatives and assumed the Chairmanship of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs?

“Probably he did not give much thought to it then. But certainly he must have heard of the Macapagal-Lacson-Tolentino resolution of 1950. Did he give it in the Senate active and real support, even in its proprietary aspects? He has been a member of that distinguished body for more than 12 years — when, how and in what form, (even through a proposed amendment so as to fit his thinking) did he give that support? The cold, lifeless records of Congress yield no evidence of what he now eloquently professes.

The distinguished Senator makes a most interesting suggestion.


“He tells his colleagues in the Senate and the Filipino people that “the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu” should have gone to the United Nations, presumably to the International Court of Justice, so that if the said heirs lose their case, “there would be no loss of honor or prestige for the Republic of the Philippines.” I would commend to the good Senator a closer reading of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, in relation to Chapter 14 of the United Nations Charter. Undoubtedly, he must have known that “the heirs of the Sultan” could not possibly litigate before the International Court of Justice for the simple reason that they have no international legal personality. They do not constitute a State, as that term is understood in law. “Chapter 2, Article 34, paragraph 1 of the Statute clearly provides: “Only States may be parties in cases before the Court.”

“The same thing may well be said of his suggestion that the heirs file a reservation or a petition before the United Nations. And were we to follow the logic of the good Senator, we might conclude that America, Britain, France, the Netherlands and other countries have no more prestige and honor to keep since they have, as a matter of cold fact, lost quite a number of cases before international bodies and tribunals. But, of course, the conclusion is wrong. For respect for the rule of law has never meant and should never mean loss of honor and prestige.”

True enough, this reporter noted in the “observations” of Malaysia filed before the International Court of Justice against the claim of Indonesia for Sabah two islands, Ligitan and Sipadan, when the Philippines filed an application to intervene to “preserve and safeguard (its) historical and legal rights over the territory of North Borneo …,” in 2001, Malaysia used one of Senator Sumulong’s arguments against the Sabah claim that “The Philippines’ claim to Sabah was first raised in 1962. It was never presented in any form to the British North Borneo Company. Nor had it been presented to Britain.”

But after the Philippine House of Representatives approved Concurrent Resolution in 1950 (the Macapagal-Lacson-Tolentino resolution), expressing the Sense of the Philippines that North Borneo belongs to the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu and to the ultimate sovereignty of the Republic of the Philippines and authorizing the President to conduct negotiations for the restoration of such ownership and sovereign jurisdiction over said territory, the Philippines on September 4, 1950 advised British Government that a dispute regarding ownership and sovereignty over North Borneo existed between the two countries.

The late Senator Lorenzo Sumulong, who was against the Sabah claim, was the uncle of President Noynoy Aquino.


PHOTO CREDIT:  Jhun Dantes (

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