01547: Once On That Island

The on-going situation in Sabah remains a bit of embarrassment for the Philippine government. It's weird enough to have the individuals claiming to represent the Sulu Sultnate still presenting themselves as active political players in regional affairs, but not even they had full control over their own followers who supposedly went to Sabah without actual orders. And depending on what you read, this wasn't even a formal invasion or occupation force - merely a group of heavily armed individuals who wanted to stake a claim on Sabah and live there. They just brought all those weapons as protection of some sort.

Many folks have weighed in on the issue online via social media - a surprising number of them insisting that the Philippines should somehow exert a claim over the island. But why on Earth could this be considered a good idea? Does it look like we have the kind of political weight or military might to claim or even hold the island? And what about the residents - shouldn't we factor in their opinions on the matter? It's not about paperwork or political agreements alone. What is an island without its people?

But let's sidestep the question of whether or not the Philippines has a legitimate claim on Sabah - that's a separate can of worms in itself. The main item of concern involves the actions of the supposed rogue group that traveled to Sabah to begin with - many of whom are now dead due to Malayian joint police and military action designed to repel the invaders. Given the fact that they have forced themselves into a country without sanction by any higher authority with the intent to forcibly occupy a part of the island, it's no wonder why there are those that have resorted to call them terrorists. How can anyone in their right mind support their actions?

Yes, the Philippine government has not been actively acting on the claim in recent years. But why should they? We had to survive a regime change during the Estrada period, our economy had to weather the Arroyo years while other countries were on the brink of failure at times and various other issues of more immediate importance. Yes, even the RH Bill and the FOI Bill were far more important than trying to stake a claim on an island. In fact, the very arguments that we're trying to use again Malaysia are eerily similar to the claims China has on pretty much the entire South China Sea.

I can respect the decision of the government not to get our military involved in this incident apart from trying to set up a meager blockage between the Philippines and Malaysia - doing so would have needlessly escalated the situation into something even more ridiculous. But I also agree that the President should have done more instead of joining his allies on the campaign trail. More should have been by the government to appease whoever claims to represent the Sultanate along with assuring the Malaysian government that the Philippines formally remains outside this dispute. Instead we've largely stood by as the invaders / terrorists have been killed and who knows what else.

It looks like we're on the brink of a formal resolution to things. Seeing so many people die probably becomes quite the persuasive argument for even a would-be Sultanate. for a group that claims to have no control over the splinter group, their willingness to talk to the Philippine government has shifted in quite the major coincidence. I just hope this madness ends and we can move on to more important issues, chief among them the upcoming elections.