Condemn Aquino regime for endorsing all-out armed suppression of Filipinos in Sabah

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Communist Party of the Philippines

(This statement originally dated March 5, 2013 is an emended version released on March 9, 2012)

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) condemns the Aquino regime for endorsing the all-out armed suppression by Malaysia of a small contingent of armed Filipinos in the Lahad Datu coastal district of Sabah. The armed expedition was deployed a few weeks ago by the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu, in an effort to press their claim over Sabah, which is historically regarded as their homeland.

Not only has the Aquino regime refused to act on the clamor for a resolute effort to pursue the Philippine territorial claim to Sabah, it has also denounced the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu for deploying their armed supporters and demanded their unconditional surrender to the Malaysian police and armed forces. In a vain effort to justify its policy, the Aquino regime has put to question the legitimacy of the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu and imputed “instigation” by, and “conspiracy” with, anti-Aquino political forces. Aquino has effectively cast away Philippine sovereignty claims over Sabah.

The Aquino regime, however, has succeeded only in further inflaming the heirs and armed followers of the Sultanate of Sulu and shutting the door to a peaceful resolution of the armed standoff at Sabah. In so doing, it has paved the way for the all-out attacks by the Malaysian armed forces against the Sultanate’s forces in Sabah.

The CPP further denounces the crackdown being carried out by the Malaysian armed forces on Filipino residents of Sabah as well. Malaysian security officials have been going from house to house in search of the Sultanate’s men, and harassing Filipino residents in the process. They have also been bombing civilian communities, resulting in the deaths of several Filipino civilians, including a religious leader in Semporna town. Civilians who attempt to flee the aerial bombings are automatically assumed to be part of the Sultanate’s armed contingent and pursued and shot at. The Malaysian government has imposed restrictions on the media in order to carry out their suppression campaign away from the critical eyes of the international community.

The Aquino regime has long failed to take up the cudgels for Filipinos in Sabah–both the claim of sovereignty asserted by the Sultanate of Sulu in behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, as well as the large Filipino community in the territory.

It is hypocritical for Aquino to invoke the interests of the Filipinos in Sabah in demanding the Sultanate of Sulu to order the surrender of its expeditionary forces. The Filipinos in Sabah have been largely abandoned by the Philippine government over the years.

There are up to 800,000 Filipinos in the region, or more than 20% of the population of Sabah. Many of them are undocumented and stateless, driven to Sabah in search of work and to escape the vicious military campaigns against the struggling Moro people. Most of them have ended up working in large rubber and oil palm plantations. Many are considered as illegal immigrants and subjected to highly oppressive and exploitative conditions. They are routinely rounded up, imprisoned, tortured and brought back to Sulu in overcrowded boats. Their situation is of primordial concern and should be vigorously exposed and acted upon.

The CPP takes cognizance of the claim of Sabah being asserted by the Sultanate of Sulu in behalf of the Filipino people. There is ample historical proof behind the assertion that the region which once comprised the North Bornean territory granted to the Sultanate in the 16th century remain under its ownership and under Philippine sovereignty. That the 1878 and 1903 contracts between the Sultanate and the British North Borneo Company for control of the territory are lease contracts is demonstrated clearly by the fact that the Malaysian government continues to make annual payments of 5,300 ringgit to the Sulu Sultanate. The Sultanate of Sulu formally ceded to the Republic of the Philippines its title and dominion over the Sabah territory in 1962. The incorporation of the Sabah territory to the Malaysian Federation in 1963 was deceptively and coercively carried out by the British colonialists and their puppet Malayan reactionaries.

However, since then, the succession of puppet Philippine governments have failed to decisively, consistently and effectively assert Philippine sovereignty over Sabah. Instead, they have raised the issue on and off, depending on the US’ obtaining geo-political interests.

In this and in all other cases, the Philippine puppet regimes’ foreign policy has always been subservient to the dictates of the United States government and defined not by the country’s national interests. The Aquino regime refuses to vigorously assert the Philippine claim over Sabah because it is afraid of antagonizing Malaysia and derailing the US-backed peace process between the Philippine reactionary government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which is being brokered by Malaysia.

In the face of the Philippine government’s refusal to pursue the claim, the democratic and patriotic forces can work with the Filipino claimants to help pursue it in various political, diplomatic and other possible arenas, including raising the issue before an international tribunal. In these fora, there should be a united effort to put to the fore the oppressive conditions of migrant Filipino workers in Sabah, and measures to organize and empower them to defend their rights and advance their welfare.

At the same time, the progressive and democratic forces should encourage the Sabah claimants to unite with the rest of the Filipino people in vigorously demanding an independent foreign policy whose guiding principles are national self-determination, territorial integrity and the people’s sovereign interests.

The claimants of Sabah share with the rest of the Filipino people a common history of subjugation by the US imperialists. The Sultanate of Sulu itself, was compelled to submit to US colonialism in the face of the brutalities of the US colonial forces at the turn of the 20th century. Over the past decade, Sulu itself has been the target of US interventionism and has seen an increasing presence of US forces. The US-trained armed forces of the Manila government have also intensified their operations in Sulu and the rest of Morolandia in the guise of “anti-terrorism,” only to further subjugate the struggle of the Moro people for self-determination and pave the way for the exploitation of the vast natural resources found within the Moro people’s ancestral land.

It is an opportune time to recall the common history of subjugation and resistance in the collective effort to assert, not only the Sabah claim, but sovereignty over the rest of the country, which today is further being undermined by heightened US military intervention and the worsening puppetry of the ruling Manila government. There can be a united stand for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States which allow the permanent stationing of US troops, the rotational docking of US warships and use of Philippine airspace by US jet fighters and drones.

As long as the Philippines is under a puppet regime of the US imperialists, it can never stand on solid ground in asserting its claim over other disputed territories. Philippine sovereignty, including the assertion and defense of territorial integrity, can only see fruition under a truly democratic and patriotic state.

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