The Philippines and Sabah: A Timeline
Sabah is one of the 13 member states of Malaysia which is located on the northern portion of the island of Borneo. Its capital is Kota Kinabalu. It is often referred to, by seafarers to describe lands which are south of the typhoon belt, as “The Land Below the Wind”.
The petroleum-rich state was considered by Muslims from Southern Philippines as part of the former super-power Sultanate of Sulu.
Timeline of events on the Sultanate of Sulu's Claim Against Malaysia
In 1658 the Sultan of Brunei gave the northern portion of Borneo, named as Sabah, to the Sultan of Sulu as a reward for his help in sending Tausug warriors which stopped a rebellion and civil war. Since then, it has become the property of the Sultan and the Sultanate of Sulu.
In 1704, the Sultan of Sulu became the sovereign ruler of most of North Borneo. Although there is no existing document stating the grant of land from Sultan of Brunei to Sultan of Sulu, it is accepted by all sides.
On 17 March 1824, the Treaty of London was signed by the Netherlands and Great Britain. The treaty allocated certain territories in the Malay archipelago to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands (Dutch East Indies).
On 23 September 1836 the Treaty of Peace and Commerce between Spain and Sulu was signed. It granted Spanish protection of sultanate, mutual defense, and safe passage for Spanish and Joloan ships between ports of Manila, Zamboanga, and Jolo.
In 1845 Muda Hassim, uncle of the Sultan of Sulu, was publicly announced as the successor to the Sultanate of Sulu. He was given the title Sultan Muda and became the leader of the “English party”. The British Government appointed James Brooke as a confidential agent in Borneo and extended help to Sultan Muda to deal with piracy and settle the Government of Borneo.
In April 1846 Sir James Brooke received intelligence that the Sultan of Sulu ordered the murder of Muda Hassim and some thirteen Rajas and their followers. Muda Hassim killed himself as he found that resistance was useless.
On 19 July 1846 Admiral Thomas Cochrane, the Commander-in-chief of East Indies and China Station of the Royal Navy issued the Proclamation to cease hostilities if the Sultan of Sulu would respect his engagements with the British government. If the Sultan persisted, the squadron would burn down the capital of the Sultanate.
On 7 May 1847 Brooke was instructed by the British Government to have a treaty with the Sultan of Brunei. British occupation of Labuan, Malaysia was confirmed and the Sultan conceded that no territorial cession of any portion of his country should ever be made to any foreign power without the sanction of Great Britain.
On 29 May 1849 commerce between Britain and the Sultanate of Sulu was convened. The Sultan of Sulu said that he would not concede any territory without the consent of the British.
On 30 April 1851 a treaty was signed between Spain and the Sultan of Sulu, Mohammed Pulalun which made the Sultanate of Sulu part of the Spanish Monarchy.
The letter of The Earl of Derby to Lord Odo Russell on 17 January 1867 said that rights of the Treaty Rights of Spain which may have had to to the sovereignty of Sulu and its dependencies are considered invalid due to the complete failure of Spain to attain a de facto control over the territory claimed.
On 30 May 1877 the Protocol of Sulu, which was signed between Spain, Germany, and Great Britain, provided free movement of commerce and direct trading ships in the Sulu archipelago. The British Ambassadors in Madrid and Berlin were informed that the protocol implied that the Spanish claims over Sulu or its dependencies are recognized.
On December 1877 Alfred Dent, member of the commercial house of Dent Brothers and Co. of London, started his expeditions to control the north part of Borneo.
On 22 January 1878 Sir Dent obtained sovereign control over the northern part of Borneo for 5,300 ringgit (US$ 5,000) from the Sultans of Brunei and Sulu. The Sultan of Sulu Mohammed Jamalul Alam appointed Baron de Overbeck as Datu Bendejara and Raja or Nirth Borneo. Baron de Overbeck was an Australian national sent to Borneo as representative of Dent and Co. to enter negotiations with Sultans and Chiefs of Brunei and Sulu.
On December 1878, Dent and Overbeck submitted the Statement and Application of Debt to the Marquis of Salisbury. Sultan of Sulu Mohammed Jamalul Alam wrote letters to the Governor of Julu, Carlos Martinez and the Captain-General Malcampo to revoke what he termed the lease he granted over North Borneo.
On 4 July 1878 the Sultan of Sulu Mohammed Jamalul Alam sent a letter to the Captain-General of the Philippines that said Sandakan was not ceded to the United Kingdom but was only leased. He added that he only did this under the threat of attack from the British.
On 22 July 1878 the Bases of Peace and Capitulation was signed in Jolo. Sultan of Sulu, Mohammed Jamalul Alam declared the sovereignty of Spain over Sulu and its dependencies but they were free to exercise their religion and customs. The British, German, French, Dutch, and the Spaniards agreed on their spheres of influence in Southeast Asia.
On 2 December 1878 Dent and Overbeck applied for a Charter of Incorporation from Queen Victoria.
On 16 April 1879 Acting Governor William H.Treacher wrote to the Colonial Office and objected the raising of the Spanish flag over Northe Borneo.
On 5 November 1879 the Memorandum by the Duke of Tetuan on the characterization of the Dent-Overbeck Contract was sent to the Marquis of Salisbury.
On 1 November 1881 Queen Victoria granted Charter of Incorporation to the British North Borneo Company which made it as a “Territorial Power” and not as a “Trading Company”.
On 16 November 1881 Spaniards protested the granting of Royal Charter and said that by virtue of treaties of capitulation of 1836, 1851, and 1878, Spain exercised sovereignty over Sulu and its dependencies including North Borneo thus the Sultan of Sulu had no right to enter into any treaties or make any cessions.
On 7 January 1882 the British Foreign Minister Earl Granville sent a letter that said the Crown assumes no dominion over territories occupied by the Company nor purports to grant the Company any power of Government. It only recognized the grant of territory and the powers of government which are made and delegated by the Sultans in whom the sovereignty remained vested.
On 7 March 1885 the Spanish supremacy over Sulu was recognized if they abandon all claim to the portions of Northern Borneo which are now part of the British North Borneo Company's concessions.
On 12 May 1888 because of the ongoing civil war in Sulu, the “State of Borneo” was made a British protectorate. An agreement was made between the British North Borneo Company and Great Britain making the North Borneo Company the rights and powers to govern the territory.
On 14 June 1888 the British Protectorate was established over Sarawak.
On 17 September 1888 the British Protectorate was established over Brunei.
In 1892 Jose Rizal proposed to the Spanish government that a Filipino colony in Sabah should be established but the plan did not push through.
From 1894-1936, Sultan Jamalul Kiram II ruled the Sultanate of Sulu.
In 1896 Malay States were united into a federal union. Provinces included Negeri Sembilan, Pehang, Perak and Selangor.
On 10 December 1898 the Treaty of Paris ceded the Philippine Islands to the United States of America. The treaty lines did not include North Borneo (Sabah).
In 1899 President Emilio Aguinaldo invited the Sultan of Sulu to join the newly-established First Republic of the Philippines. Benito Legarda and Victor Papa were appointed representatives for Jolo at the Malolos Congress.
On 20 August 1899 the Kiram-Bates Treaty was signed. It acknowledged the sovereignty of the United States over Jolo and its dependencies.
On December 5, 1899 William McKinley disscussed American policy towards the Sultanate of Sulu. The policy said that:
- Piracy was supressed and persons engaged in piracy would be brought to justice.
- All trade of domestic products of Jolo when carried with any part of the Philippines and under the American flag were free, unlimited and undutiable.
- The Sultan of Sulu was given full protection from any foreign nation's attempt to impose upon him.
- The United States would not sell Sulu without the Sultan's consent.
- Salaries for the Sultan and his associates in the administration of the islands were US$ 760 monthly.
- Any slave in Jolo was given the right to purchase freedom by paying to the master the usual market value.
On 1 February 1900, William McKinley submitted the copy of Kiram-Bates Treaty to the US Senate. However, it was not ratified by the latter as President Theodore Roosevelt abrogated the treaty.
On 7 November 1900, the Convention of 1900 was passed which consolidated the Amercian possessions in Sulu and included the islands of Sibutu and Cagayan. On that same day, the British North Borneo Company was able to obtain more territory from the Sultan of Sulu.
On 3 December 1900, William McKinley provided details on the Convention of 1900 in his State of the Union Message. He said that to avoid future misunderstanding of the interpretation of the third article of the Treaty of Peace, he directed the negotiation of a supplementary treaty whereby Spain quit all title and claim of title to Sibutu and Cagayan and all islands of the Philippines which lies outside the lines describe in the said treaty. Spain also agreed that all such islands should be comprehended in the cession of the archipelago. In consideration of this cession, the United States paid US$100,000 to Spain.
On 2 April 1903, additional payment of US$300 a year was added to the Confirmatory Deed which stipulated that certain islands which are not mentioned in the Deed of 1878 had always been understood to be included therein.
On 19 November 1906, a note was passed from the U.S. Department of State to the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. It stated that Sabah was not an Imperial possession of the British Crown, that the British North Borneo Company which had leased Sabah from the Sultan of Sulu, did not have a national status, and that the company did not have an administration with the standing of a government.
On 22 March 1915, the Governor-General of the Philippines Frank W. Carpenter and the Sultan of Sulu signed the Carpenter Agreement. It stated that the Sultan of Sulu abandoned his and his heirs' right to temporal sovereignty, tax collection, and arbitration laws but he would get an allowance, a piece of land and recognition as religious leader.
On 4 May 1920, Governor Frank W. Carpenter sent a letter to the Director of Non-Christian Tribes. He emphasized that the signing of the agreement meant the “termination of all the rights of temporal sovereignty” which the Sultan had previously exercised in Sulu within American territory without prejudice to North Borneo.
The British North Borneo Company attempted to have Sultan Jamalul Kiram to live in Sandakan and acquire a good title to the ownership of the territories. A palace was offered to place himself under their protection. There were two instances where Gov. Carpenter sent the Chief or Police of Jolo to bring the Sultan back from Sandakan.
On 11 June 1926, Representative Bacon filed a bill to separate Mindanao from the Philippines.
On 2 January 1930, The Boundaries Treaty of 1930 was passed. It clarified the islands belonging to the U.S. and to the State of North Borneo. It also determined the boundaries between the Philippine Archipelago under the U.S. sovereignty and the State of Borneo under the British protection.
The Philippine Commonwealth was inaugurated on 15 November 1935. Article 1, National Territory of the 1935 Constitution stated that the Philippines is comprised of all the territory ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Paris together with all the islands mentioned in the Convention of 1990 (Sibutu and Cagayan), and The Boundaries Treaty of 1930, and all territory over which the present Government of the Philippine Islands exercises jurisdiction.
Sultan Jamalul Kiram died on 11 June 1936 and the question of the perpetuation of the Sultanate was raised. Successor Sultan Muwallil Wasit died before he was crowned. His brother is the claimant, through his niece Dayang-Dayang who is married to Datu Ombra. Manuel L. Quezon considered her to be the ablest of Moros but the Mohameddan Law does not permit a woman to be Sultan.
Harrison pointed out that the large portion of political sovereignty was already surrendered to Wood in 1903 and to Carpenter in 1915.
Datu Ombra Amilbangsa was proclaimed Sultan of Sulu on 29 January 1937. His title became Sultan Mohammed Amirul Ombra Amilbangsa. His Crown Prince is Esmail Kiram. It was on the same time that Datu Tambuyong was proclaimed and crowned Sultan and became known as Sultan Jainal Aberin. He chose his brother and husband of Tarhata Kiram, Datu Buyungan, as Crown Prince.
Datu Ombra Amilbangsa became Sultan as Esmail Kiram I did not assume the throne. Datu Tambuyong was also crowned Sultan by opposing Moro leaders. They both claimed the sultanate from 1937 to 1950.
On 9 May 1937, through Dayang-Dayang efforts, the British resumed payment of lease.
On 20 September 1937 President Quezon sent the Memorandum on Administration of Affairs in Mindanao to Secretary Quirino which said that the Titles of Datus and Sultans were recognized but they have no official rights and powers.
Representative of Sulu Datu Amilbangsa wrote to President Quezon on 2 October 1937 and said the Datu claimed the policy was most unnecessary as the non-recognition had already taken effect since the abrogation of the Bates Treaty and the implantation of the Civil Government in the regions referred to.
On 8 October 1937, Executive Jorge Vargas communicated Quezon's policy to the Representative of Sulu Datu Amilbangsa. The policy stated that the titles of Datus and Sultans are recognized but they have no official rights and powers.
On 19 December 1939 the High Court of the State of North Borneo handed down the decision in Civil Suit No. 169/39. In it North Borneo Chief Justice C.F.C. Mackaskie stated that the heirs of the sultan were legally entitled the payment for North Borneo. In the same decision, he rendered an obiter dictum opinion or side note stating that the Philippine Government is the successor-in-sovereignty to the Sultanate of Sulu. The side note however did not establish a legal precedent since the Commonwealth Government had abolished the Sultanate of Sulu.
On 4 April 1940, Dayang-Dayang renounced her claim against the Philippine Government over the Sultanate of Sulu.
World War II transpired from 1942 to 1945.
The Malayan Union was created in 1946. The provinces included were Federated Malayan States, Unfederated Malayan States (Johor, Kedah, Kalantan, Perils, Terengganu), Malacca and Penang.
On 18 June 1946, the American attorneys that represented the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu denounced the British action of annexation of North Borneo and called it an unauthorized act of aggression.
On 26 June 1946 the British North Borneo Company ceded colony to the Crown and annexed North Borneo to the British Empire.
The Third Philippine Republic was inaugurated on 4 July 1946.
The British Government annexed the territory of North Borneo as a Crown Colony on 10 (or 16) July 1946.
On 26 September 1946 Presidential Adviser on Foreign Affairs, Francis Burton Harrison, sent a letter of recommendation to the Department of Foreign Affairs that the Philippines should launch a protest against Britain's annexation.
Harrison wrote a second memorandum on the government of the Sultanate of Sulu on 8 December 1946 and said that he asked Professor Otley Beyer to translate the original lease of North Borneo. Beyer translated it as the land being leased and not ceded.
Harrison stated on his recommendation to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Vice President Elpidio Quirino. He said that the action of the British Government was an act of political aggression and that it should be promptly repudiated by the Philippine Government. He proposed to lay this case before the United Nations before the bar of world opinion.
The Federation of Malaya was created on 31 January 1948. Malay States became British Protectorates and Malacca and Penang remained as British Colonies.
Sultan Esmail Kiram assumed the throne from 1950 until his death in 1974.
The House of Representatives approved the Concurrent Resolution No. 42 on 28 April 1950. The Resolution expressed the sense of the Congress that North Borneo belongs to the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu and the ultimate sovereignty of the Philippines and authorized Quirino to conduct negotiations for the restoration of such ownership and sovereign jurisdiction over the said territory. The Senate however did not approve the Resolution.
The Philippines advised the British Government on 4 September 1950 that a dispute on ownership and sovereignty over North Borneo existed between the two countries.
Vice President Carlos P. Garcia and the British Ambassador to Manila signed an agreement on 30 August 1955 that provided employment and settlement of 5,000 skilled and unskilled Filipino agriculturists and miners in North Borneo. However, it was not implemented as North Borneo employers feared multiple suits that would arise from claims of Filipino laborers.
The Governor of North Borneo visited Manila on January 1957 to implement the 1955 labor treaty. 500 Filipino Muslims urged President Ramon Magsaysay to negotiate with the British to return North Borneo to the Philippines. Magsaysay did not act on the resolution and the United Kingdom High Commissioner for Southeast Asia said it would not take seriously the demands of Moros in the Philippines for certain areas of North Borneo.
The Federation of Malaya Act was signed on 31 July 1957. It established the Federation of Malaya as a sovereign country within the British Commonwealth.
Sultan of Sulu Muhammad Esmail Kiram issued a proclamation on 25 November 1957 which declared the termination of the Overbeck and Dent lease, effective 22 January 1958. All lands were to be deemed restituted henceforth to the Sultanate of Sulu.
In 1957 Nicasio Osmeña, acting as attorney-in-fact for the heirs, headed a syndicate to negotiate with the British Foreign Officer and asked for a lump sum payment of US$15 million in full settlement of the lease agreement. The attempt however was unsuccesful.
The Peninsular Malaya was granted independence by Britain on 31 August 1957.
North Borneo (Sabah) was included in the concept of Malaysia after the UK talks on 27 May 1961. It was when Diosdado Macapagal was forced to initiate the filing of the Philippine claim in North Borneo as it was being considered as a member of the proposed concept of Malaysia broached by Prime Minister Tengku Abduk Rahman in Singapore.
Attorneys of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu wrote a letter to the Department of Foreign Affairs on 5 February 1962 and said that they want to have the territory included as part of the national territory of the Republic of the Philippines. J.C. Orendain, counsel for the heirs, regain proprietary rights to North Borneo and that sovereignty would be turned over to the Philippine Republic.
Heirs of the Sultan of Sulu ceded sovereignty rights over Sabah to the Philippine Government on 24 April 1962. The Resolution No. 321 urged Macapagal to take necessary steps to recover Sabah.
President Macapagal called Sultan Mohammad Esmail Kiram to Malacañang Palace on 25 April 1962 and disscussed the Philippine claim on North Borneo. The Republic of the Philippines accepted the cession and transfer of the territory of North Borneo by representative Acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs Salvador P. Lopez.
On 29 April 1962, the royal counsel Ruma Bechara advised Sultan Esmail Kiram to cede the territory of North Borneo, and the full sovereignty, title and dominion over the territory to the Republic of the Philippines.
The British Ambassador sent a note to the Vice President and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Emmanuel Pelaez on 25 May 1962 and asserted their claim on Sabah and said there was no dispute on sovereignty and ownership of said territory.
Lopez handed a note to the British Ambassador to Manila on 22 June 1962 and asserted the Philippine claim on North Borneo. The British Government sent a reply on 7 August 1962 and asserted its sovereignty over Sabah.
Ruma Bechara passed a resolution on 29 August 1962 which authorized the Sultan in council to transfer his title and sovereignty over the inhabitants and territory of North Borneo to the Republic of the Philippines.
On 11 September 1962 Macapagal issued a special authorization in favor of Pelaez to formally accept, on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, the transfer of sovereignty over the territory of North Borneo by Sultan Mohammad Esmail Kiram.
Heirs of the Sultan of Sulu ceded all rights, proprietary, title, dominion and sovereignty to the Republic of the Philippines on 12 September 1962. The Secretary of Foreign Affairs sent a Note to British Ambassador which asserted that the Philippine claim subsists even if North Borneo was included in the Federation of Malaysia in the London Agreements.
Pelaez addressed the United Nations General Assembly on 27 September 1962 and stood firm on what the country considered to be a valid legal and historical grounds and that the government desired the issue to be settled by peaceful means and without prejudice to the exercise of the right of self-determination by the inhabitants of North Borneo, preferably under United Nations auspices.
The Philippine and British Governments presented a joint statement on 29 December 1962 after a series of invites to hold a conversation regarding the security and stability of South East Asia. Both parties have agreed at a mutually convenient date in 22 January 1963.
Indonesian President Sukarno pledged support to the Philippines on 26 January 1963.
In his State of the Nation Address on 28 January 1963, President Macapagal restated the position of the country on SONA and that the pursuit of the claim was vital in the country's national security.
Talks between the British and Philippine Governments were held in London from 28 January to 1 February 1963. The Philippines panel was composed of Vice President and Foreign Affairs Secretary Pelaez, Usec. Salvador P. Lopez, Defense Secretary Macario Peralta, Justice Secretary Juan Liwag, Senator Raul Manglapus, Rep. Jovito Salonga and Godofredo Ramos, and Amb. Eduardo Quintero. The Philippines and the United Kingdom submitted a Joint Final Communique which stated their claims on 1 February 1963.
On 25 March 1963, Senator Sumulong opposed to the filing of the Philippine claim to Sabah and pointed out that the country's claim did not specify which particular portion of North Borneo was covered by it. Representative Salonga responded to Senator Sumulong on 30 March 1963 and said the claim is of the entire Republic based on respect for the rule of law, the sanctity of contractual obligations, the sacredness of facts, and the relentless logic of our situation in this part of the world.
The Federation of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines met from 7 June to 11 1963 and the meeting resulted in the drafting of the Manila Accord.
The Malaysia Agreement was signed on 9 July 1963 and article 1 provided for the creation of the Federation of Malaysia. It included colonies of Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak.
A consultative body among Malaya, Philippines and Indonesia was formed from 30 July to 5 August 1963. It was called MAPHILINDO.
The Manila Accord was signed on 31 July 1963. Indonesia, the Federation of Malaya and the Philippines signed a policy statement which agreed to peacefully resolve the issue on North Borneo. Ministers of the country agreed to the creation of Malaysia with the support of the people of North Borneo to be ascertained by an independent body.
The Philippines, the Federation of Malaya and Indonesia released a joint statement on 5 August 1963 which stated that the United Nations Secretary-General or his representative should ascertain the wishes of the people of Sabah and Sarawak within the contect of General Assembly before the establishment of the Federation of Malaysia. The said countries also issued a jount communique and said that the inclusion of North Borneo in the Federation of Malaysia would not prejudice either the Philippine claim or any right thereunder.
On 5 August 1963 Foreign Affairs Secretary Lopez tried to have the British Government enter into a special arrangement to refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice.
The Federation of Malaysia became a sovereign state, with North Borneo as one of the component states on 16 September 1963. Because the new State of Malaysai succeeded to the interests of the British Crown in Sabah, the Philippine claim had to be pursued against Malaysia. After Macapagal conferred with congressional leaders and foreign policy advisers, he decided not to immediately recognize the federation of Malaysia until the Philippines would formally be assured that the New Malaysia would uphold the Manila Accord.
The Philippines refused to recognize Malaysia. Together with Indonesia, they rejected the UN Findings and broke off diplomatic relations with Kuala Lumpur on 17 September 1963.
A referendum was conducted in North Borneo in 1963 where the people of North Borneo chose to join Malaysia.
From 5 to 10 February 1964, allies including the U.S.A. attempted to mediate among Malaya, Philippines and Indonesia. It resulted to a series of talks in Bangkok.
President Macapagal and Federation of Malaya Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Raman met in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Tunku agreed to elevate the Sabah dispute to the World Court if the Sabah leaders would go along.
After allies including the U.S.A. drew a series of attempts to mediate among the three MAPHILINDO countries 'from 3 to 6 March 1964, a series of talks in Tokyo followed.
The Philippine-Malaysia Diplomatic Relations was established on 18 May 1964 after a Consulate was created in Kuala Lumpur.
On 19 November 1964, the Philippines submitted a proposal to send the dispute to the International Court of Justice to adhere to the rule of law and the UN Charter.
Singapore was expelled from the Federation of Malaysia on 9 August 1965.
Malaysia reiterated its willingness to abide by the Manila Accord on 3 June 1966.
In 1967, President Ferdinand Marcos initiated “Operation Merdeka” which involved training of commandos in Corregidor. Merdeka is an Indo-Malayan term meaning "to set free" or simply "freedom". They aimed to infiltrate Sabah but different reasons were given as to why the plan did not succeed. A version said that then Senator Ninoy Aquino exposed their secret operation thus it became a big failure in Philippine military strategy. Other reasons given were the nonpayment of their monthly allowances and the trainees' desires to resign.' Another version spoke of the mutiny of the trainees which forced their military handlers to order the massacre of the entire company, so that none could survive to tell the story of the horrendous nightmare.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established on 8 August 1967. It is an economic and geo-political organization composed of the ten countries of Southeast Asia. This organization was initially comprised of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines.
Young Muslim recruits who were trained to invade Sabah were killed on 18 March 1968. 135 trainees were brought to Corregidor. They were promised a monthly allowance but it never came thus it triggered a widespread demoralization which culminated in a petition to Marcos. The Army was ordered to fix the situation but the young trainees mutinied against their training officers thus making the Oplan Merdeka open for expose. The government panicked and ordered the Army to kill the recruits. Their bodies were burned before being thrown into the sea. The event which became known as the Jabidah Massacre was exposed in a privilege speech by Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr.
Constancio B. Maglana delivered a privilege speech on 27 March 1968 in the House of Representatives on the Philippine claim on Sabah. He published Sabah is Philippines (1969) and emphasized the basis for the Philippine claim as well as advocated the prosecution of the claim.
On 29 March 1968 Senate Minority Floor Leader Ambrosio Padilla revealed a document dated 1 February 1968 which was a power of attorney executed by the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu which recognized the power of President Marcos to represent them in the settlement of proprietary rights over Sabah. Press Secretary Jose Aspiras said that the authority had been given to the President as Chief Executive. Malacañang also released another document, dated on the same date as the first document, in which Marcos transferred to Foreign Affairs Secretary Narciso Ramos the authority given by the heirs of the President.
The Philippines and Malaysia engaged in a conversation in Bangkok on 17 June 1968. The Philippine panel was composed of Ambassador Gauttier Bisnar, Amb. Eduardo Quintero, Dr. Florentino Feliciano, Amb. Leon Ma. Guerrero and Amb. Mauro Caluigo. The Delegation's Term of Reference was to elevate the dispute to the World Court.
Malaysia rejected the Philippine claim and said the latter has no claim at all and that there was nothing to settle and nothing more to talk about.
On 16 July 1968, Amb. Guerrero responded to the rejection of Malaysia and said that the Ambassador’s “unipersonal rejection” has “single-handedly brought our two countries to the most serious crisis in their relations.” Upon the advice of the Foreign Policy Council, Marcos broke off diplomatic relations with Malaysia on 20 July 1968. On the following day, he issued a policy statement about the Philippine claim. He reiterated the efforts of the government in pursuing the claim and advocated the recourse to file the case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Congress approved Senate Bill No. 954 on 28 August 1968. The bill delineated the baselines of the Philippines and provided that the Philippines has acquired dominion and sovereignty on North Borneo where Sabah is situated. The bill was sent to the President for approval. The Commander-in-chief of the British forces in Far East, Admiral Michael Carver, said that his troops, ships and planes stand behind Malaysia in the growing crises with the Philippines over Northern Sabah. The bill was signed by Marcos on 18 September 1968 and it became Republic Act No. 5446. US State Department Press Officer Robert J. McCloskey said the U.S. recognized Malaysia as the owner of Sabah.
Marcos called U.S. Ambassador R.G. Mennen Williams and asked for assurance that U.S would abide by her treaty of defending the Philippines in case the Britain or Malaysia attacks.
It was on that same date that a thousand students from the University of Malaya stoned the building of the Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur and pulled down the Philippine flag from its pole and trampled upon it.
On the 23rd Session of the UN General Assembly which was held on 15 October 1968, the Philippines and Malaysia were tangled in a debate over the Sabah issue. The Philippines stood by its policy statement of bringing the issue up to the World Court as consistent with the Manila Accord Agreement while Malaysia defended that the people of Sabah had shown their desire to join the Federation of Malaya and upheld the British title to Sabah.
On December 1968, Malaysia proposed that the Philippines recognize her sovereignty over Sabah in order to normalize the Philippine-Malaysian diplomatic relations, without prejudice to the latter pursuing her claim.
In his State of the Nation Address on 22 January 1969, Marcos said that the Philippine claim to North was justified based on legal, historical and moral grounds and that the country's claim will be pursued peacefully.
Diplomatic relations between Malaysia and the Philippines formally resumed on December 1969 after a discussion between Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman and Secretar of Foreign Affairs Carlos P. Romulo.
Written in the Article on National Territory of The 1973 Constitution was that the national territory is comprised of the Philippine archipelago with all the islands and waters embraced therein, and all the other territories belonging to the Philippines by historic or legal title.
After Sultan Esmail Kiram's death, Mahakuttah Kiram served as Sultan from 1974 to 1986.
A Consultative Council on Muslim Affairs was created on 13 May 1974 through Executive Order No. 429, S. 1974.
The Tripoli Agreement was signed on 23 December 1976. It was an agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), with the participation of the Quadripartite Ministerial Commission Members of the Islamic Conference and the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). According to the agreement, full autonomy shall be given to the thirteen provinces, namely Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, and Palawan.
Marcos gave up claim to Sabah on 4 August 1977 to eliminate one of the burdens of ASEAN. He handed out the draft of the “Border Crossing and Joint Patrol Agreement” to Malaysia” but it was not signed since the latter asked two things from the Philippines: (1)1973 Constitution with its broad definition of national territory amended (2)Reversal/removal of R.A. 5446, particularly Section 2.
At the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Conference in Kuala Lumpur on 25 June 1980, Arturo Tolentino said that the Philippine claim to Sabah was closed. Usec. of Foreign Affairs Pacifico Castro and Tan Sri Zainal met intermittently in Manila and Kuala Lumpur.
Minister Roberto V. Ongpin and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad engaed in secret talks from 1982 to 1985.
In a brief interview after speaking before the ASEAN Law Association General Assembly in November 1982, PM Mahatir reiterated that the Philippines should drop its claim on Sabah since the claim remained a “thorny problem” even though the Philippines was not actively pursuing it.
Vice President and Minister for Foreign Affairs Salvador H. Laurel met with PM Mahathir and Foreign Minister Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen in Kuala Lumpur on 1 May 1986. Mahathir reiterated that a single spokesperson from the heirs of the Sultan would be the one the Malaysian government would deal with.
ASEAN Foreign Ministers met in Manila in June 1986. Usec. of Foreign Affairs Jose D. Ingles and Sec. Gen. of Malaysian Foreign Ministry discussed Sabah question.
The Constitution Commission entered into a series of debates on 3 July 1986. In a draft proposed by Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J. replaced “Historical right or legal title” from the National Territory section of the Constitution and replaced it with “Over which the Government exercises Sovereignty and Jurisdiction” to adhere with the generally accepted principles of law. Commissioner Serafin Guingona objected this proposal and said that it might be interpreted as a dropping of the Philippines claim to Sabah.
The Constitutional Commission debated on 7 July 1986. The provision of National Territory which states “Over which the Government exercises Sovereign Jurisdiction” was approved on second reading. The said line was lost on the third reading two days after. The final title was “Over which the Government has Sovereignty and Jurisdiction”.
The 1987 Constitution was put into full force and effect on 16 February 1987. The National Territory was described as comprising the Philippine archipelago, with all the islands and waters embraced therein, and all other territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction, consisting of its terrestrial, fluvial and aerial domains, including its territorial sea, the seabed, the subsoil, the insular shelves, and other submarine areas. The waters around, between, and connecting the islands of the archipelago, regardless of their breadth and dimensions, form part of the internal waters of the Philippines.
Usec. of Foreign Affairs Jose D. Ingles and Tan Sir Zainal held a series of talks in Kuala Lumpur on 20 February 1987. Ingles and Secretary-General of Malaysian Foreign Ministry also met to discuss the Sabah question.
Ingles and Zainal held further talks on 27 June 1987 in Hong Kong. Ingles and the Secretary-General of Malaysian Foreign Ministry also met as well to continue the Sabah question discussion. The Philippines agreed to adopt a new baseline law as Malaysia proposed agreements on border crossing, extradition, Treaty of Friendship, and establishment of consulates.
Upon the instruction of President Corazon C. Aquino, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Raul Manglapus sent a letter to Senator Santanina Rasul on 23 October 1987. He suggested that the claimants should organize themselves and arrive at a common position so the Malaysian government and the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu would be able to settle the matter. Rasul was able to bring the heirs to Malacañang and appointed representatives. Talks were stalled however when Jamalul III dissented.
On 19 November 1987, Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani filed Senate Bill No. 206 to repeal R.A. No. 5446. Shahani emphasized that a package of bilateral treaties agreements on amity and economic cooperation, extradition, and border-crossing and patrols were offered in exchange for droppping of the Sabah claim. The bill was certified urgent by Aquino but it faced stiff opposition and was not passed in the 8th Congress.
Aquino and Manglapus held a series of talks with the heirs without Jamalul Kiram III from 4 to 6 December 1987. The heirs were of the opinion the Jamalul Kiram was expressing his own personal views which contravene the consensus reached at the meeting.
Former Senator Arturo Tolentino oppossed the Shalani Bill 'on 28 August 1988 as it would drop the Sabah claim.
On 12 February 1989, Sultan Mohammad Jamalal Kiram III who was one of the claimants to the throne, revoked the resolution of August 1962 which transferred the title and sovereignity of Sabah to the Republic of the Philippines.
President Fidel V. Ramos issued Executive Order No. 46 on 11 January 1993. It created the Bipartisan Executive-Legislative Advisory Council which would focus on the Sabah issues.
Ramos went to Malaysia on 27 January 1993 for a state visit which lasted until the 30th. Both parties agreed to set up a consulate in Sabah and Davao. Ramos downplayed the North Borneo issue despite calls from members of Congress to pursue the claim.
Ramos attempted to unify the heirs to the Sultanate. On 10 February 1993 he suggested to them that they create a corporation called the Sulu-Sabah Development Corporation which would be the conduit of funds from the settlement of the proprietary claim.
In July 1993, the Philippines and Malaysia signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation. The first meeting of the commission was held from 6 to 10 December 1993. Together, they discussed the reciprocal establishment of the Consular Offices in the Philippines and Malaysia.
On 26 March 1994, Ramos proposed the creation of BIMP-EAGA or the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area.
At the 10th Congress in 1995, Representative Manny Villar introduced House Bill 2657 or The Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone Act of 1995.
On the 2nd PH-Malaysia Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) meeting held from 28-29 March 1995, Malaysia has decided to establish a Consulate General in Davao which would be set up either in May or June 1995. The Philippines, who has yet to decide on the location of its location of its Consulate in East Malaysia, assured its full cooperation in the establishment of Malaysian Consulate. Malaysia was able to set up a Consulate but the Philippines did not push through.
The JCBC held its 3rd annual meeting from 29 to 31 May 1995. Both parties have agreed on the need to hold informal consultations with relevant agencies to resolve outstanding problems especially on the Filipino workers and illegal immigrants. On the Opening Remarks of the Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs Datuk Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi, he said that the Armed Forces and Police of both countries have concluded a historic joint patrol exercise designed to curb piracy, illegal entry and illegal fishing in the territorial waters of the two countries. A working group between two countries also met to deal with matters of border-crossing.
In 1996, Princess Denchurain Kiram sent a letter to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir and asked to increase the rental of US$1,000,000. She added that she was willing to renounce the claim if the Malaysian Government would provide a fair settlement. The proposal however was refused by the Prime Minister.
On 2 September 1996, the Government was able to have a peace agreement with the MNLF. In December of the same year, Border Crossing and Joint Patrol agreements were signed by Malaysia and the Philippines.
The Executive Order No. 117 was passed on 5 July 1999. It reconstituted the Bipartisan Executive-Legislative Advisory Council on the Sabah Issues. HB 2973 was re-filed as HB 2031 on the 12th Congress.
The 4th JCBC was held from 1 to 3 March 2000. The Philippines noted its commitment to establish a Philippine Consulate in Sabah.
In January 2001, Sultan Esmail Kiram sent a letter to Prime Minister Mahathir, through President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Kiram asked to increase the lease fee to US$855 million per annum.
In February 2001, the Philippines filed for Application to Gain Access to the Pleadings at the International Court of Justice hearing on the Ligitan-Sipadan Islands dispute between Malaysia and Indonesia. This was to “to preserve and safeguard its historical and legal rights arising from its claim to sovereignty and dominion over the territory of North Borneo.” A month after, the Philippines petitioned the ICJ to intervene in the territorial dispute over Sipadan and Ligitan Islands. The ICJ denied the Philippines' application for intervention on 24 October 2001.
On 14 March 2001, Malaysian authorities reportedly expressed willingness to buy Sabah for US$800 million. The deal was supposedly initiated by the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu through the legal counsel Ulka Ulama.
Upon Arroyo's return from a state visit to Malaysia on 9 August 2001, she asked Vice President and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teofisto Guingona to set up an economic and cultural office in Sabah which would be similar to the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan.
In November 2001, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Nur Misuari ordered his troops to wage rebellion. He managed to escape to Malaysia but the Malaysian government extradited him back to the Philippines.
At the invitation of President Arroyo, some of the heirs were able to meet in the Malacañang Palace. Jamalul Kiram III was recognized as the Sultan. Arroyo sent a letter to the Malaysian Prime Minister and asked for the adjustment of rent to Sabah.
Executive Order No. 121 was passed on 6 September 2002 to reconstitute the Bipartisan Executive-Legislative Advisory Council on the Sabah Issues.
On 19 September 2002, Arroyo assured the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu that they are protected.
In August 2002, reports of harsh treatment on Filipino deportees spark diplomatic protest from Manila. Lawmakers supported revival of Sabah claim. Arroyo urged officials and the public to separate the issue of territorial dispute from the issue of Filipino deportees.
Passed in the 13th Congress were HB 1973 which defines the archipelagic baselines of the Philippine archipelago including the Kalayaan Island Group and conforms with the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and HB 6087 which defines the archipelagic baselines of the Philippine archipelago and amends the RA 3046.
In the annual meeting of JCBC held from 14 to 16 July 2004, parties discussed the situation of the Filipino workers in Sabah and proposed that the Philippines should set up a consulate there as soon as possible.
EO 357 abolished the Bipartisan Executive-Legislative Advisory Council on the Sabah Issues on 14 September 2004. Its functions were transferred to the DFA.
In September 2005, the Royal Sultanate of Sulu Archipelago's Supreme Council warned the Government of Malaysia not to enteratin claims of Sultan Rodinood Julaspi Kiram on the resolution of the North Borneo territorial issue.
In the closing statement of Malaysian Foreign Minister Dato Serid Syed Hamid Albar at the 6th Malaysia-PH Joint Commission Meeting held from 27 to 28 April 2006, he asked Secretary Alberto Romulo to find ways to bring a conclusion to bilateral matters especially on the displaced people in Sabah and the setting up of the Philippine Consulate General in Kota Kinabalu.
Mohammad Fuad Abdulla Kiram I was procl the 35th Sultan of the Royal Hashimite Sultanate of Sulu and Sabah on 3 June 2006.
In the May 2007 elections, Jamalul Kiram III run for a post in the Senate but lost. HB 1202 or the New Baselines Law was introduced by Antonio Cuenco on the 14th Congress.
Nur Misuari called for the revival of the North Borneo claim in the 2nd Mindanao Leadership Summit attended by MNLF combatants held on 29 May 2008. Sabah Progressive Party President Datuk Seri Panglima Yong Teck Lee urged Malaysia's Federal Government to bring in the military, set up consulates in Mindanao and invite the Philippines to set up a consulate in Sabah.
On 9 July 2008, the Sultanate of Sulu was reported to issue birth certificates to Filipinos in Sabah.
On 27 July 2008, the negotiator of Mohammad Jamal Al Alam heirs Datu Omar, was quoted to have obtained signatures of nine heirs who relinquished their claims to Sabah. These are denied by the claimants. Uka Ulama said that nobody has the power to drop the claim as there is no more Sultan who reigns and rules over the territory.
On 10 August 2008, the Sulu provincial government told Malaysia to increase annual payment to Jamalul Kiram III to US$500 million.
Arroyo issued Memorandum Circular No. 162 or the “Guidelines on matters pertaining to North Borneo (Sabah)" on 20 August 2008. Itb said that there is no recognition of a foreign state's sovereignity over North Borneo and that any activity there was carried out only with the clearance of or after consultations with the DFA.
Arroyo signed RA 9522 on 10 March 2009. To fulfill the second Malaysian stipulation, she removed the mention of Sabah or North Borneo in the Archipelagic Baselines of the Philippine law.
In 2010, Misuari issued a statement which called for the attention of Malaysia to settle the Sabah issue.
In June 2010, the Sulu provincial board passed a resolution which supported the demand of the heirs to increase the annual payment to at least US$500 million.
The decision of the Supreme Court GR No. 187176 released on 16 July 2011 upheld the baseline law which retained the Philippine claim over Sabah.
Malaysian House Speaker Pandikar Amin Haji Mulia visited the Philippines from 24 to 27 April 2012. He raised the matter of opening the consulate. President Benigno Simeon Aquino III instructed the Secretary of Foreign Affairs to study the proposal.
On 5 June 2012, upon Vice President Jejomar Binay's return from a visit to Malaysia, he recommended to Aquino the setting up of the Philippine Consulate in Sabah.
Over 200 followers of Jamalul Kiram landed in Datu Village in Sabah on 12 February 2013. A 17-day standoff instigated by the followers of Sultan of Sulu in Lahud Datu, Sabah followed.
On the morning of 1 March 2013, it was reported that Malaysian forces have started shooting on Filipinos who were holed up in Sabah. At noon, the spokesman of Kiram held a press conference in Taguig and reported that at least 10 people were killed while 4 others were wounded in the assault. At 1 P.M., Malaysia denied that they fired the first shot. An hour after, the Palace said that only warning shots were fired and that there were no deaths. Aquino arrived in Pampanga to campaign with Team PNoy and monitored the Sabah situation. At 3 P.M., Malaysia released a statement through DFA saying that only three people died from the encounter. An hour later, the Philippines formally asked the Malaysian government an explanation on what really happened in Lahud Datu. At 4:30 P.M., the sultan's spokesman told reporters that a hundred Filipinos in Sabah were arrested thus signalled the start of a “crackdown”. At 7 P.M., Malaysia reported that 12 Filipinos were killed in the firefight. At 8 P.M., Malacañang said that the standoff was not yet over as Malaysian security forces and Kiram's followers were in Sabah. The administration appealed to the Kiram family to return to the Philippines. Aquino ordered Kiram's camp to “unconditionally surrender”.
Six Malaysian policemen were killed in an ambush, which lasted from 2 to 4 March 2013 at the water village of Kampung Sri Jaya Simunul, Semporna. Six of the armed intruders were also killed. It was reported that the bodies of the policemen were badly mutilated.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Under Secretary Jose Brillantes and Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia J. Eduardo Malaya met Malaysian Defence Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein on 4 March 2013 to seek a peaceful resolution.
Airstrikes (F-18 and Hawk Fighter jets) were launched on Kiram's group holed up at Kampung Tanduo in Lahad Datu, Sabah on 5 March 2013. Army and police follow-up operations and searches in the area were also conducted. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak asked the government to take appropriate action to protect its dignity and sovereignity as demanded by the people. In a media conference, Armed Forces Chief Gen Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mod Zin declared that “Ops Daulat” was able to achieve its objectives. The Malaysian Home and Defense Ministers said that security forces did not suffer any casualties. Manhunt for the remaining armed group in the area continued.
On 6 March 2013, a supporter of Kiram was shot. Stand-off remained as 300,000 Malaysian citizens of Suluk descent distanced themselves from areas taken by Kiram's supporters. Malaysian mulls sought Kiram's extradition.
In a press conference held in Manila on 7 March 2013, Sulu Sultan Kiram called for a unilateral ceasefire. Malaysia rejected his plea and instead asked for an unconditional surrender. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon called for an end to the violence in Sabah and encouraged dialogue among all parties for a peaceful resolution of the situation.
In a statement of Aquino to the graduating cadets of the Philippine Military Academy on 17 March 2013 he emphasized that “earnest dialogue is more effective, more productive and more beneficial to all, as opposed to pointing weapons at each other.”
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