Sabah conspiracy? It's Malacañang 'fabrication'

MANILA, Philippines - One of the advisers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III said there "is no conspiracy" behind the Sabah standoff, adding it was "fabricated" by people in Malacañang. 

Pastor "Boy" Saycon said on Tuesday, March 12 that there's "a conspiracy to peddle fabricated conspiracy" to deflect the issue away from the administration.

President Benigno Aquino III said on March 4 that some people conspired to send hundreds of followers of Kiram to Sabah in February and reclaim the Malaysian-controlled state.

Saycon, who was one of the 4 people subpoenaed by the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the alleged conspiracy, said members of the foreign press were especially "invited" by the Palace to sell the idea of a conspiracy.

Saycon clarified that President Benigno Aquino III does not know about this, and that he was being misled by some members of his Cabinet, particularly Secretary Ricky Carandang, head of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.

Carandang denied this. "The media would not allow itself to be manipulated by anyone," he said. 

The sultan's brother, Raja Muda Agbimuddin, led more than 200 followers from Tawi-Tawi to Sabah, where they have been in a standoff with Malaysian security forces to revive the Sabah claim.

Saycon stressed that he has not communicated with former defense secretary Norberto Gonzales, who was also accused of taking part in the said conspiracy.

He said he saw Gonzales in Kiram's residence, but they did not talk.

Gonzales is a key ally of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Saycon was an Aroyo ally, too, until he sided with all sorts of political factions. He is a close associate of the President's uncle, former Tarlac Rep Jose "Peping" Cojuangco, whose wife Margarita is running for the Senate under the oppositon United Nationalist Alliance.

'Soft understanding'

Saycon, who described himself as Kiram's adviser for 12 years, said he was not aware of the plan to send the Royal Army in February, adding he was helping the sultan strengthen its case on the Sabah ownership before the United Nations.

"They went there unilaterally. It's a chance that they took," he said.

Saycon added that they tried to hold a "constructive dialogue" with Malaysia even before the fighting between Malaysian authorities and members of the Royal Army broke out in March 1.

"In fact, there were [efforts], without the government knowing it, outside or what we call a backdoor channeling, [to make] the Royal army go home before March 1st," he said.

"We had an initial soft understanding with the representative of Malaysia through the Department of Foreign Affairs, to have a 5-day period of constructive dialogue towards constructive disarmament," he said.

He said they agreed to hold the dialogue in Brunei. Before he could relay this to the Embassy of Brunei in the Philippines, though, Saycon said he heard that the clashes had begun in Sabah. - Rappler.com