Kiram fears 'plan' to hand them over to Malaysia

MANILA, Philippines - Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III is worried about a reported government plan to bring them to Malaysia to face charges. In a press conference on Monday, June 10, the Kirams claimed they got this information from an ally "within the government."

Kiram appealed to President Benigno Aquino III for help, saying Filipino Muslims have been in the Philippines long before the country was founded. "Mr President, huwag mong kalimutan na ako'y Pilipino rin. Mas nauna pa akong Pilipino kaysa sa iyo. Ang katotohanan, wala pa kayo Pilipino na kami -- ang mga Muslim sa Mindanao," he said. "Wala pa ang Pilipinas, meron na ang Sultanate of Sulu. This is my only message to you, please tulungan mo naman ang kalahi mo," he added.

"Hindi kami natatakot. Kami ay nababahala. Ano ba ang kasalanan? He was not inciting to war," said Sultanate of Sulu spokesperson Abraham Idjirani in a phone interview. (We're not afraid. We're just concerned. What has he done? He was not inciting to war.)

The Philippines has no extradition treaty with Malaysia. But Idjirani cited information—from a "reliable source within the government"— about a plan to extradite Kiram to Malaysia. He told Rappler: "We cannot divulge the identity of the person helping us. The source is sympathetic to the position of the sultan."

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) submitted last week its report on the Sabah standoff to Justice Secretary Leila De Lima. According to a report by the Philippine Star, the NBI recommended filing charges against the sultan and 38 of his followers. NBI later said the report is not final.

Followers of Sultan Kiram sailed to Sabah in February 2013 to stake their claim on the disputed territory. It resulted in a standoff between Kiram's men and Malaysian security forces. It also resulted in a crackdown on Filipinos there, prompting thousands to return to the Philippines.

Authorities also arrested 38 members of Kiram's Royal Security Forces. They are facing charges of inciting to war, illegal possession of firearms, and violation of election gun ban. But the Tawi-Tawi court granted the re-investigation of their cases. (READ: 2 Kiram 'soldiers' post bail)

At the height of the standoff in March, Malaysian officials said they wanted the Philippine government to hand over the Kirams to them. President Aquino back then said he wanted the Kirams to be tried in the Philippines first. (READ: Kiram extradition? No now - Aquino)

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda refused to comment on the issue. "I am not privy to the investigation report itself or what the content of the investigation is.... Let’s wait for an official statement from Secretary Leila de Lima, if there’s any," Lacierda said. 

Idjirani also called on Malacañang to release the result of the study of a committee that President Aquino formed to study the Philippines' claim to Sabah. -