Tuesday, March 19, 2013



There are some subplots to our Sabah Saga. One is the role of the Jumat family and their own story. Two are the stories of the other famous escapees who used the same route. Three is the significant participation of famous U.S., Malaysian, and International personalities and institutions that figured. Fourth is the Jabidah Massacre itself. Each one could be subject to separate and longer articles or even books.


Gerry Jumat is the head of the Muslim family who escaped with us.  Gerry baptized our first child, Tanya as a Catholic. How did that happen? Fr. Gerry was one of the only two known Muslims who became Catholic priests at the time. He was raised and educated by the Oblates in Cotabato who ran the Notre Dame University. He became a very close assistant to Bishop Nepomuceno of the Cotabato Diocese.  Boots Ayson of Pampanga is a niece of the Bishop. She became famous for working with Manglapus in the Ora Bantay case that toppled the Crisologo dynasty.

The Bishop was a close friend of Tita Maring Feria who was the central figure in the planning, communications, and financing of all the escapes that started with my Mother-in-law Pacita Manglapus and brothers-in-law, Raulito, Bobby, and Francis. Tita Maring, the Bishop, Fr. Gerry, and Boots worked together in the execution of the first escape.  Fr. Gerry and Boots, who was disguised as a Nun, became very close and fell in love. Gerry got out of priesthood and married Boots. Lara and Wally were born before our own escape.

Why were the Malaysian authorities looking for Benjamin Maynigo at the Tawau, Sabah port? This is because Home Affairs Minister Ghazali Shafie had instructed them to look for me. He was earlier called by Senate President Ong Yok Lin to help us upon the request of some important people in Washington, D.C. The former was the Malaysian Ambassador to the United States during the Kennedy Administration.

Why did we have to stay in Sabah for more than 4 months? In fact, our daughter already started speaking Malaysian, and I read 50 + novels and self-studied stenography. The main reason was the Ford-Kissinger Administration, which was sympathetic to the Marcos regime, rejected our application for political asylum. We had to wait for Peanut Farmer Jimmy Carter to become President and be a beneficiary of his Human Rights policy.

Why were we under the care of the Red Crescent? Our Christian Democratic friends in Europe got us certified as political refugees under the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR). We were not unlike the Vietnamese “boat people”. We were paroled into the United States under UNHCR auspices.

Another interesting note – I was not only disguised as a barter trader, I was also disguised as a Special Assistant to the Malaysian Prime Minister. To apply for political asylum, we had to do it at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. At the time, to travel to K.L. from Sabah, you needed some papers and a Visa. I had none, so the Home Affairs agents arranged my disguise.


I find the debate between the two intellectual giants very interesting.  Here was a battle between two Bar Topnotchers who earned graduate degrees in International Law from Ivy League law schools: Salonga from Yale and Sumulong from Harvard.

Both supported the proprietary rights of the Sultanate and its heirs but they differ in so far as their sovereignty rights are concerned.

Salonga contended that the Sultanate retained its sovereignty rights because they never lost it until its transfer to the Republic of Philippines. The latter did file the claim. In UN International bodies only States have the legal personality to file, appear, try, and have cases adjudicated.

Sumulong, on the other hand, believed that it was too late to fight for sovereignty rights – that the Philippines should instead concentrate on working with the neighbors including the new Federation in the fight against the growing threat of Communism in the region and to give the inhabitants of Sabah freedom.

Indeed, documents support the contention that the Sultan of Sulu never transferred title or ownership of Sabah to any entity. Evidence only supports a continuing “lease”, payment of which is made up to this day.

Besides, there is jurisprudence adjudicated in the 21
st Century by the International Court of Justice rejecting Malaysia’s claim of inheriting sovereignty by virtue of a “chain of title” that stretches from the Sultan of Sulu to Spain to the United States to Britain to Malaysia. (Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan Case).

This could be the reason why Malaysia refuses to be a party to any litigation before the International Court of Justice. It could LOSE! And as Salonga contended, the Philippines could WIN.

On the other hand, there is also the contention that by virtue of the “effectivities”, Malaysia could claim sovereignty based on activities evidencing an actual, continued exercise of authority over the islands. Furthermore, as a result of decolonization, SELF-DETERMINATION had become the controlling doctrine – that Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them. Records in the United Nations would show that a Report made by a UN-sanctioned Commission determined that the desire of the inhabitants in Sabah was to join Malaysia.

This could be the reason why the Philippine Government has not been pursuing the Sabah claim more aggressively. It could LOSE! And as Sumulong believed, Malaysia could WIN.

In our research, we found out that some British officials who were sympathetic to the Philippine cause had actually warned the Philippines about Britain’s plan to grant independence to Malaysia. In fact, it suggested that Filipinos, more particularly Ilocanos, should start going to Sabah via Mindanao so that when the time comes that the inhabitants in Sabah are surveyed as to what they desire – staying with Malaysia or be under the Philippines, they would answer the latter.

In my last conversation with my classmate Mayor Rod Duterte of Davao City, he had high praises for the hard working, loyal and courageous Ilocanos in Mindanao. Bishop Nepomuceno had a similar impression. I am just wondering if the Ilocanos decided to stay in Mindanao instead of proceeding to Sabah as suggested by our British friends.


  1. NOT to withdraw the Sabah Sovereignty Rights Claim; and
  2. Pursue the Proprietary Rights Claim of the Heirs more aggressively.
Subject to the following considerations:

            a. A unified Sultanate. All the heirs must be identified and declared. There has to be a JUDICIAL determination as to who are the real heirs. Right now there are too many competing heirs. If DNA tests have to be administered as ordered by the court, let it be. Anybody who claims to be an heir should register, show proof, get tested, and, once identified as a legitimate heir, must agree to be one of the claimants.
            b. All judicially recognized heirs must elect their representatives to work with the Philippine Government.
            c. Proprietary rights accrue to the heirs. There is no doubt that the Malaysians would recognize those rights. They are paying only $5000 annually because that is the payment term. They are not paying the just compensation because there has not been a transfer of title through sale or eminent domain (expropriation).
            d. The amount and manner of payment is negotiable. Malaysia had earlier indicated that it is willing to pay the heirs.
            e. The price or value may differ depending on whether it is paid in Cash, Installment, other manner of payment or a combination of all.
            f. Of course, Malaysia would probably want the Philippines to give up the sovereignty rights claim that the heirs had already given up anyway.

There are other negotiating angles available that could benefit the Philippines, the heirs and even the Malaysians.

  1. Aside from Cash, can a major Reclamation Project in Sulu to be owned by the Sultanate but funded from the sales proceeds and developed with foreign grants and investments be made?
  2. Aside from Cash, can some public lands in Mindanao be allocated to the Sultanate paid for partly by the sales proceeds and to be developed either as farmlands or for business development projects in joint ventures with foreign investors? The heirs may choose to invest part of the compensation or sales proceeds in these ventures.
  3. Can the Sultan of Brunei as Chair of the ASEAN and the donor who gifted Sabah to the Sultan of Sulu participate in coming out with a final deal? After all, Brunei’s gift was in appreciation for Sulu’s help in time of Brunei’s need. Sulu failed to enjoy the gift over the years. Perhaps, with Brunei’s help, this time the heirs would.
  4. The Sultan of Brunei may also want to invest either in the major Reclamation project or other business and development projects involving the Sulu Sultanate.

Accessory follows the Principal. The Philippine Government may want joint exploration of the natural resources of Sabah as part of the deal. The Philippine Government should be able to take care of itself.

What it wants should be a free flow of goods and people along the seas between Muslim Mindanao and Sabah as Abdul Julkanain and other barter traders had done for hundreds of years.

It does not want WAR!

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