Statement of President Aquino on the Events in Sabah

President’s Hall, Malacañan Palace

04 March 2013

It was at the height of the 1987 coup d’etat during when I was ambushed, together with four members of my security detail. Three of them were killed. Two of the victims of the ambush were planning to get married; and one of them would no longer be able to see his youngest child. From their wakes, and up to this day, I cannot avoid thinking about it and blaming myself: that maybe if we had not gone out then, they might still be alive; that if we did not have to go somewhere at the time, they might still be with their children, their wives, and their families. That event emphasized to me the value of the lives of my fellowmen, especially if they are affected by my decisions and actions.

This is the exact same situation that I face now in the midst of what is happening in Sabah. As President, it is not just the lives of those in Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram’s group, but also the welfare and the safety of the estimated 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah, rest on my shoulders. Each life is valuable, and we have no other priority but to ensure the safety of our countrymen, wherever they may be in the world.

Let us be frank with each other: If the situation were reversed, and armed groups entered our own community, would it be possible for us to do nothing? Would we not ask the government for help? Whatever your nationality may be, if there exists a threat to your safety, you would naturally retaliate and find a way to remove your citizens from harm’s way. How can you expect a reasonable discussion when you are pointing a gun to the face of those in the other side? If you really want the discussions to progress, do not threaten the safety of the one you are speaking with.

We are doing all we can to prepare for all possible outcomes. I have tasked each agency of government that is connected to or responsible for the different aspects of what this incident may bring about to study and prepare for the implications.

We have all been witness to the talents and dedication of our Muslim brothers and sisters; they have displayed a readiness to work with us towards a lasting peace. My call to the family of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III has not changed: it is not reasonable to ask for understanding, if your weapons are pointed at the faces of those you are speaking with. Open and reasonable dialogue can only start once you are willing to exhibit calm and restraint, and approach the table with open minds.

We are aware that there are those who conspired to bring us to this situation—a situation that has no immediate solutions. Some of their identities are clear to us, while others continue to skulk in the shadows. The family of Sultan Jamalul Kiram could not possibly have settled on this course of action alone. We have also noticed how our critics have stuck to a single messaging line to exacerbate a situation that has already grown dire. They have made this issue worse, and they are doing this even as their actions place thousands of Filipinos in danger. To the people who are behind this, even now, I tell you: you will not succeed. All those who have wronged our country will be held accountable.

I extend my gratitude to the great number of our countrymen who have been reasonable, and who have contributed towards the resolution of this incident. It is clear to us that this situation can worsen, but also that it can come to an end. After all, we can differentiate events that the turbulent winds of fate have caused, from those that have been orchestrated. What is regrettable is that there were those who chose for this to happen, and, in so doing, chose to place many Filipinos in danger. Even then, we will not allow ourselves to be drained of the strength it will take to put an end to this incident in the soonest possible time. This will come from our capacity to look to the welfare of others, and not merely ourselves. It is simple: we will be able to put an end to this trouble, if the people involved in it become reasonable, especially those who see themselves as true leaders.

Thank you.