Since Janet Napoles and the Pork Barrel scandal has monopolized news content the past few months, most people have become clueless as to who this Sultan news outlets were reporting to have died was. This week the self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III, the sultan who sent his royal army to invade Sabah, succumbed to organ failure at the age of 75. Many people now have a vague memory of Kiram, but just at that start of this year he was all over the headlines when he commanded his armed supporters to intrude Malaysian-controlled Sabah which ended in a violent conflict; not to mention, a strain on Philippine-Malaysian relations.
Although it is disheartening how Filipinos forget social issues so quickly, devoting their memory on superficial showbiz issues instead, it would have been a lot better for them to have ignored this piece of news than to entertain it with misinformation. Someone once said, “the only thing more dangerous than ignorance is the illusion of knowledge.” Whoever that quote belonged to should be proud, for that statement beamed as true as ever when people started reacting to the news. People whose knowledge on the issue are dubious.
Expectedly, there was a faction of Filipinos who were expressing their condolences, as they should, for the bereaved family of the deceased Sultan. This is only customary, it would be implacable to malign them for doing so. What is questionable however, is that eyebrow-raising comment that the Philippines had lost a hero.
Now being considered a Filipino hero has become a loaded statement as of late. Long gone are the glory days when that actually meant something; today, it seems that anyone who catches the attention of the media and become shrouded with controversy can bask in that glory. Hence, it was intriguing why people would use the term to label His Excellency Kiram III.
Apparently, these people were thanking the deceased Sultan for the intrusions into Sabah. Not only do they not see anything deflating or wrong about the excursions, but they see it as a heroic act. I would disagree. Though one could reduce this discourse to be subjective, but do know that this essay’s contention is backed by facts. Facts which, undoubtedly, are not to the knowledge of the people I’ve mentioned. People who most like rely on the facts beamed by mainstream media to make such a conclusion.
The mere thought that the Sabah conflict was productive will stir a lot of arguments against it. Is it not embarrassing, that a local group armed with weapons intruded the sovereign borders of a national ally, UN-member and a legitimate internationally-recognized state? A state that is a prominent trading partner of ours and employs thousands of our overseas workers? Any rational person would agree that that was a moment worth forgetting.
That was the story of Jamalaul Kiram III, who ordered 200 of his followers to take up arms and sieze Sabah, in order to strengthen his Sultanate’s claim over the region. This was questionable, considering that Jamalul is not even the recognized Sultan of Sulu but merely a self-proclaimed one. The true bearer of that title is his cousin Muedzul-Lail Kiram.
The Kirams are the current ruling family in the Royal House of Sulu, the ceremonial monarchy of the Sulu archipelago. The Kirams boast direct links with Sulu’s founding sultan, Sharif ul-Hashim, who established the city of Jolo in the 15th century, over a hundred years before Magellan set foot in Mactan. This royal family share ancestral links with the ancient Hashemite people, effectively being related to the prophet Muhammad of the Qu’ran. The Hashemites hold a bloody and violent history, being involved in several secessionist wars and crusades to establish a theocracy in medieval Arabia. Today, the Hashemites are commonly known as the ruling party of Jordan. In modern history, they played roles in the Black September civil war of Jordan and also were involved in the Six Day War with Israel.
The recently deceased Kiram, was proclaimed Sultan in 1983 but was only crowned in 1986 when the last recognized Sultan, Moh Mahakattah Kiram, passed away. However, his appointment was disputed since the elder Kiram had named his own son, Muedzul-Lail Kiram to be his successor, as custom. This is the reason why Muedzul-Lail’s claim of the throne is the strongest among the claimants. In addition to his case, Jamalul Kiram III abdicated the powers given to him in 1986 when he violated tradition and joined politics and showbusiness in 2001. Many will even remember him to be a senatorial candidate under Gloria Arroyo’s ticket in the 2007 elections.
Clearly, Jamalul’s claim to the Sultanate is weak yet he commands so much respect and influence from the Moros. This was proven during the Sabah stand-off in February, an event glorified strongly by so many Filipinos. The reason for that? Probably because this Sultan instilled so much inspiration into Filipinos when he proclaimed that his campaign was to claim Sabah for the Philippines and as our territory. This was no more than an illusion and a tactic to garner support from our government.
Sadly, Kiram’s newfound supporters are oblivious that his sultanate commands factions of the MNLF, the same rebel group that waged decades-old war with the government. These MNLF consider themselves, not as Filipinos, but as Moros. They claim a different identity and to be a different people from Filipinos. That is the cause of the conflict and that is the fuel that drives their campaign for secession. Regardless of the autonomy bestowed to them by the Final Peace Agreement signed with former President Fidel Ramos in 1998, they still long for a sovereign, self-governing independent state they call the Bangsamoro Republik.
Does that name sound familiar, Bangsamoro Republik? Maybe because more recently, in September to be exact, that was the battle cry of again the MNLF led by Nur Misuari when they laid siege to Zamboanga city. The reason why the Sabah conflict and Zamboanga siege are directly linked is because both share a similar root cause, that was because the MNLF were claiming these domains for their Bangsamoro Republik. The said political state claims sixteen provinces, mostly in the Philippines but also includes territories held by Malaysia.
Amazingly, the same people celebrating the Sabah conflict are condemning Misuari’s incursion in Zamboanga. It’s hilarious how clueless people can be. They see no link at all between these two events, two events which seem to be a contrast for them. It’s fair to say that if you supported the Sabah conflict, you should also support the Zamboanga conflict too. Both were part of the Moro’s campaigns to achieve their Bangsamoro Republik.
Unfortunately for them, the Sultanate of Sulu is not as powerful as it once was. In fact, part of the reason why Malaysia have stopped paying royalties to the Sultanate for ownership of Sabah is due to the fact that the Sultanate of Sulu has been reduced to a mere ceremonial entity. Bearing no legal or political jurisdiction whatsoever. It’s speculative, but it makes sense to assume that part of the reason why the fighters loyal to this sultanate has been stepping up its’ operations this year is in order to enforce their influence. Sadly, it is too late and both attempts failed miserably.
Surely the late Jamalul Kiram saw this when he invaded Sabah, if his men were no match for the Philippine government they would be an easy picking for Malaysian authorities. Quick to think, Kiram called upon the Filipino to back his campaign. Creating a mirage of hope that somehow that war was for them, that Sabah is the Philippines’ territory. Any case being made for that before an international tribunal would be futile, the Marcos government have relinquished all claims of Sabah in exchange for Malaysian support in his drive against Communism in the Cold War era. Again, this is a bit of history I doubt these Sabah conflict supporters know.
Make no mistake, this essay intends no contempt or disrespect to the deceased Kiram or to his followers. It is uncouth to rejoice in someone’s death or soil someone’s name when they cannot defend it. It is simply being argued that his war against Malaysia was not the same war fought by Bonifacio, del Pilar or Diego Silang but rather by the likes of Rajah Calambu or Sultan Kudarat – Muslim warriors who fought for their Islamic, Moro state in the South. This then makes Jamalul Kiram III no hero to Filipinos. If he was to be called a hero, it would be one of the Moro people.