Global issues, Human rights, Military & war

Sabah crisis: Is Aquino siding with Malaysia to protect relatives’ business interests?

Presidential cousin and funder Tonyboy Cojuangco's AirAsia pals transport Malaysian army reinforcements to Sabah. (Photo from Borneo Inside)

Presidential cousin and funder Tonyboy Cojuangco’s AirAsia business pals transport Malaysian army reinforcements to Sabah. (Photo from Borneo Inside)

The “journey home” to Sabah of some 200 followers of the Sultanate of Sulu more than a month ago has escalated into a full blown humanitarian crisis. More than a thousand Filipinos have fled Sabah that for decades they called home. Men, women and children took any boat available in a frantic and perilous voyage away from the brutality of Malaysian forces. The number of refugees in Tawi-Tawi from Lahad Datu and other affected towns in Sabah is expected to grow in the coming days.

Those who fled recounted the atrocities that Filipinos suffered in the disputed territory. “Malaysian policemen ordered Filipino men to run as fast as they could and shot them,” said a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “Even pregnant women and children have been hunted down and killed as the Malaysians fire mortars and embark on a house-to-house search,” according to the Philippine Star. These people are not part of the armed followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III. They just happen to be Filipinos.

Some are baffled while most are enraged by the attitude of the Aquino administration towards the Sabah crisis. From the onset, President Benigno Aquino III took a hardline stance against the Sulu royal forces. Jamalul’s brother Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram and his men must surrender before any talks can happen, Aquino insisted. Charges are being prepared versus the Kirams, claimed the Justice department. They may also be turned over to Malaysian authorities to face prosecution. Malacañang sowed intrigues to cast doubt on the motive and legitimacy of the Sultanate. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is probing the alleged conspiracy between the Kirams and certain politicians. All these even as Aquino ignored appeals by the Sultanate and the United Nations (UN) to stop the Malaysian military assault and for parties to talk.

Palace and Foreign Affairs spokespersons, of course, expressed concern over the reported human rights abuses in Sabah. But their statements are meaningless amid the brutal military offensive launched by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak that Aquino practically sanctioned with his reckless position. The public perception is that Aquino abandoned his own people, surrendered the country’s rightful claim to Sabah and sided with Malaysia. Thus Aquino, like Razak and his forces, is responsible for the carnage of Filipino men, women and children in Sabah.

But why is Aquino siding with Malaysia? One plausible explanation noted by analysts is the ongoing peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) where Malaysia plays a key role as facilitator. Aquino does not want to displease Malaysia and risk undermining the negotiations.

However, it is also notable that since taking over in 2010, Aquino’s relatives who bankrolled his presidential bid have inked business deals with Malaysia. Could these business interests be another possible explanation for the administration’s handling of the Sabah crisis?

What are these business deals? One involves San Miguel Corporation (SMC) of Aquino’s uncle Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. In August 2011, SMC acquired three subsidiaries of US oil giant Exxon Mobil’s downstream oil business in Malaysia. Worth $610 million, the transaction included the purchase by SMC of Esso Malaysia Bhd, Exxon Mobil Malaysia Sdn Bhd and Exxon Mobil Borneo Sdn Bhd. In its website, SMC said that the three companies form an integrated business engaged in refining, distribution and marketing of petroleum products. The physical assets include the 88,000 barrels per day Port Dickson refinery; seven fuel distribution terminals; and about 560 refilling stations.

SMC’s entry into the Malaysian downstream oil industry could be just the initial steps. Ramon S. Ang, president of the giant conglomerate, recently disclosed that SMC is eyeing big oil and natural gas field overseas. “If we were able to buy one of those, it would be like printing money forever,” Ang was quoted as saying. SMC is so serious about the plan that Ang said they are willing to let go of longtime core business San Miguel Brewery Inc. and new assets in power generation to raise funds. With its acquisition of Exxon Mobil’s downstream assets, SMC is in a strategic position to also corner upstream deals in oil-rich Malaysia.

The disputed state of Sabah itself is abundant in oil and gas resources. An article by the Philippine Star, quoting a 2012 study by Singapore-based FACTS Global Energy, reported that Sabah has reserves of about 11-12 trillion cubic feet of gas and at least 1.5 billion barrels of oil. The figures represent 12% and 15% of Malaysia’s natural gas and oil reserves, respectively, according to the report. Another article, by the Centre for Research on Globalization, noted that Sabah has 15 oil wells that can produce as many as 192,000 barrels a day. Also, four new oil fields have been discovered in its territorial waters in the past two years further increasing Sabah’s potential as oil producer.

Is Aquino avoiding displeasing Malaysia over the Sabah dispute so as not to undermine the grand multibillion dollar oil and gas ambitions of SMC and uncle Danding?

Another business deal involves AirAsia Philippines, the local affiliate of Malaysia-based AirAsia Bhd, the largest budget carrier in Southeast Asia. In November 2010, the Board of Investments (BOI) approved the formation of AirAsia Philippines as a joint venture between Malaysian investors and Filipino businessmen led by the President’s cousin Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco Jr. Tonyboy and his Malaysian partners are aggressively expanding their operation in the Philippines with their recent acquisition of at least a 40% stake in local rival Zest Airways Inc.

Does Aquino fear that the contentious Sabah issue could somehow complicate the blooming Malaysian business partnership of his cousin Tonyboy?

Aquino could not just ignore the interests of his rich relatives. He won’t be President without their vital support.

Tonyboy was the biggest campaign donor of Aquino in 2010, based on the President’s official declaration to the Commission on Elections (Comelec). Out of the P440 million in campaign funds declared by Aquino, Tonyboy’s contribution accounted for almost a quarter with P100 million. While Danding was not officially listed as a campaign donor, it is widely known that the tycoon and Marcos crony also supported the candidacy of his nephew.

If these business interests of his relatives played a key role in Aquino’s handling of the crisis, then the slaughter of our men, women and children in Sabah becomes much more revolting and enraging than it already is. (End)


20 thoughts on “Sabah crisis: Is Aquino siding with Malaysia to protect relatives’ business interests?

  1. Peacefulwaysshouldprevail says:

    “The public perception is that Aquino abandoned his own people, surrendered the country’s rightful claim to Sabah and sided with Malaysia.”

    This seems to be the gist of what you wrote. You seem to have misrepresented the Filipino “public”‘s sentiment with your personal emotional feelings for the Kirams. For one, you have no statistical evidence that majority of Filipinos feel abandoned. It’s kind of true though, that when one feels so strongly about something, one is bound to think that everyone is of the same side as his. However, it cannot work on an issue as sensitive and as big as this.

    If you followed the Malacañang, you would have known that the President is NOT giving up the country’s claim to Sabah. I’ve listened enough news and read enough articles to know that the President is ACTUALLY doing something. Unfortunately, he cannot and will never turn to aggressive ways. Otherwise, we’d become the bully to Malaysia in the same manner as China is to our country.

    As much as it is true that relatives of the President have businesses with and in Malaysia, it does not discredit the fact that Aquino is NOT siding with Malaysia. The question is, why does it even bother you if his relatives have businesses abroad? Are they not allowed to? Does that automatically imply that Aquino has evil intentions behind people’s projections of him being complacent about this issue?

    Peace becomes elusive because people refuse to cooperate. Kiram’s claim, no matter how legitimate, should NOT have been acted irrationally upon. I’m just an ordinary citizen, but I do have faith in the government. It’s not perfect, it will never be, but it’s definitely one that’s moving the Philippines from more than a decade of stagnation and need I mention, corruption!

    “If these business interests of his relatives played a key role in Aquino’s handling of the crisis, then the slaughter of our men, women and children in Sabah becomes much more revolting and enraging than it already is.”

    I don’t even get your point. If Aquino’s relatives are after the oil of Sabah, then Aquino would have been militarily aggressive about this issue and posted his relatives in Sabah to mine off all of those oil reserve!

    “slaughter of men, women and children..” This is such a big statement and I dare say one should be careful in putting these words in print. As it is a statement, it presupposes that you have actually been to Sabah and did the casualty counting yourself.

    You see, there is a huge difference to thinking critically and thinking radically. I suggest you read the following articles:

    • YesImRightYourWrong says:

      well, you are one to talk, and for the length of your comment, it seems none of it contains your ability to think critically as you had preached practically in your entire statement.

      The reason why Aquino is not backing up the Kiram followers if indeed he is to pursue the business interest of his relative is simple.
      1. When the business deal pushes through, monopoly of the resources acquired by SMC will be achieved. If he backs up the Kiram followers and indeed succeeds, the government will be able to exercise dominion over Sabah, which means the government can enact property policies over the land, not only will it endanger the business prospect they have with Malaysia but if the president backs up the Kirams, he will only open the Sabah territory to the opportunity of other businessmen exploiting its resources..

      Now you know. You don’t preach critical thinking when you can’t even support your paradigm of scattered and unfounded arguments based on emotions. POS

    • TheSilentObjector says:

      What the author said is common sense and does not need that much re-analysis but you are so affected so much that you wrote a novel. smh 😐 Does Aquino have to go such lenghts? :/

    • Crispo Galeon says:

      So, how would you call Malaysia’s action then? Justifiable? An air strike against an unaccounted rag tag armed men presumed to be terrorists justifiable? Sixty casualties (And you believe that? Truth is, that could be double, if not triple!!) and still counting ain’t a slaughter? How would you define slaughter? Are you bloodthirsty? And you find Kiram’s action, irrational and Pnoy’s indifference, normal and Malaysia’s action, justifiable? Geez, where is your sense of humanity and justice???

      • raja says:

        Justified and not done soon enough Malaysia spent 3 weeks talking to these terrorists trying to get them to leave peacefully they refused then murdered 8 cops 6 of whom were tortured these were not peaceful so by somehow waving away their crimes while whining about Malaysias proportionate response is just ignorance on your part

    • Wendell Guerrero says:

      Peacefulwaysshouldprevail as what your username says. REALLY! Base on your username, it looks like you’re also a HYPOCRITE, just like the Aquino-Cojuangco clan. Posturing as an apologist, it seems that you DELIBERATELY IGNORED or OMITTED what the Aquino-Cojuangco clan did to the lowly farmers in the so-called MENDIOLA MASSACRE and HACIENDA LUISITA MASSACRE. Is that what you mean by PEACEFUL WAYS or PEACEFUL WAYS SHOULD PREVAIL by the Aquinos? By the Cojuangcos? PEACEFUL WAYS or PEACEFUL WAYS SHOULD PREVAIL by the Aquino-Cojuangco clan using military and police by force and guns? Farmers and supporters being killed left and right, including priests, for the sake of the Hacienda Luisita of the Aquino-Cojuangco clan that should have been distributed long time ago? FYI, Hacienda Luisita should have been distributed to the farmers in 1967 after the 10-year window period ended. But the Aquino-Cojuangco clan evaded the distribution by resorting to every trick they can think of to the poor and mostly uneducated farmers, including the unitile SDO (Stock Distribution Option). Oh come on Peacefulwaysshouldprevail! Are you both deaf and blind? Or a puppet na WALANG PAKIRAMDAM? Wake up Peacefulwaysshouldprevail if you’re sleeping or day-dreaming!

    • Wendell Guerrero says:

      One more Peacefulwaysshouldprevail!

      How about Pres. P-Noy (Panot si Noynoy) or Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino’s grandfather, Benigno Simeon “Igno” Aquino, Sr.?

      Benigno Simeon “Igno” Aquino, Sr., openly collaborated with the Japanese during World War II. In fact, Benigno S. Aquino, Sr. was the Director-General of KALIBAPI or Kapisanan ng Paglilingkod sa Bagong Pilipinas, -a Filipino political party that served as the sole party of state during the Japanese occupation. It was intended to be a Filipino version of Japan’s governing Taisei Yokusankai party.-[1][2]

      ─ Speaker of the National Assembly

      Being among the more prominent Commonwealth officials left after the Commonwealth government went into exile in 1941, Aquino were among those recruited by the Japanese to form a government. Aquino became the director-general of KALIBAPI and one of the two assistant chairmen of the Preparatory Commission for Philippine Independence. When theSecond Philippine Republic was inaugurated, he was elected Speaker of the National Assembly.

      ─ Arrest and collaboration charges

      In December 1944, as the combined Filipino and American forcescontinued their advance to liberate the Philippines from Japanese forces, the government of the Second Philippine Republic was moved to Baguio which included Aquino before they flew to Japan where together with other officials they were arrested and imprisoned at theSugamo Prison when the Japanese surrendered. On August 25, 1946, Aquino was flown back to the Philippines for his trial on treason charges by the People’s Court, a few weeks later he was released on bail.

      ─ Death

      On December 20, 1947 he died of heart attack at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Manila while watching a boxing match. [3]

      ─ world war 2 full documentary

      If you’re still not convinced, maybe you should watch the video entitled “world war 2 full documentary”. At 1:58:39-45 and 1:58:53-57 of this video, you will see Pres. P-Noy (Panot si Noynoy) Aquino’s grandfather, Benigno Simeon “Igno” Aquino, Sr. in front of a Japanese Imperial Army officer, listening and receiving a paper that looks like a certificate, with the video narrator saying
      “Under Japanese rule, some Filipinos openly collaborated with the invader. A few of this opportunists, striving for favor with the conqueror, had held important post in the government of the Philippine Commonwealth before the fall of Manila, prompted them to become Far Eastern quisling.”

      To watch the video entitled “world war 2 full documentary”, please click the link below:

      By the way, Benigno Simeon “Igno” Aquino, Sr. is the father of Sen. Benigno Simeon “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr..

      1. Setsuho Ikehata, Lydia N. Yu-Jose, Philippines-Japan Relations, Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2003, p. 196

    • This article is one of those Malaysia woos, interspersing superficially important data with speculation. You see, there have been numerous speculations of Malaysia using the MILF as a destabilizing force in Mindanao, and President Aquino enabling it for the sake of, well, either sheer feebleness of spirit or more strategic business interests. This one is no different from those. Note how it starts the data section with reference to the “national perception” of things, without providing any survey data – even if it did, it’s simply a perception of the truth!

      Basically what Padilla’s data spray tells us is that Sabah is a potential economic gain for either Malaysia or the Philippines – which is no secret, anyway! – and that Philippine tycoons are eager to cash in on this and other Malaysian industries – again, no secret! I don’t see the problem with this – and I don’t see the reasons to mix this up with Lahad Datu, which is a different problem altogether except if people want to play conspiracy theorists and earn imaginary money and applauses.

      You cannot blame the President of the Philippines for trying to do damage control with a fellow ASEAN member nation and fellow claimant to the Spratlys. You can blame the Sultanate of Sulu for ignoring the context of the Philippine claims as they stand, trying to retake Sabah on their own. They are also responsible for the deaths of the innocents, not the President of the Philippines! True, Aquino (because of the chain of command) is responsible for the deaths in Mamasapano, but he is not responsible for the deaths in Lahad Datu. Basically he cannot do anything except discipline Sulu and hold it responsible for the civilian deaths incurred by their little insurrection.

      Is Padilla, then, advocating a Flor Contemplacion approach to relations with Malaysia? Haven’t we learned from the episode with Singapore, or are we still butting our heads against the wall?

      It doesn’t matter, in the last analysis, if Aquino’s relatives have business interests in Sabah. Heck, it doesn’t matter if they have business interests in the rest of Malaysia! Malaysia is a federal nation, and Sabah is more loosely tied to that nation than the rest of the states (except Sarawak). It has its own immigration laws, for instance, and has power to restrict even people from West Malaysia from going there. This conspiracy theory forgets that most important fact!!!

      And yet, people are willing to lap up anything with sprayed economic data just to have their much-desired geopolitical-corruption conspiracy to believe in.

  2. Wilhelmina D. Alicante says:

    What the author had written is presumably what most intelligent Filipinos are thinking right now and I am one of them. The author is right in his assessment why from the very start this administration did not act positively and diplomatically on the letter- request of Sultan Kiram for a possible peaceful solution on the Sabah (North Borneo ) issue (actually their claim on the said territory).

    • raja says:

      He cant talk about a dead claim after the WW2 colonialism and royal rights died the people replaced kings. The are lazy greedy guys who want easy money.
      Do you know how they claimed Sabah? By rape,torture,murder and through fear when Japan conquered and UK liberated Sabah the 1878 and 1903 agreements were nullified.
      Malaysia wont negotiate with Kirams either to hand over land or even more money as it would be considered recognising an illegal sultan and delegitimising the rights of the people

  3. Palpal says:

    nice 1st comment that rebutted the whole article. all creativities and twists will come out due to emotions. in time somebody will comment that pnoy or whoever has another something in malaysia and due to that he’s not acting rationally. what else do you stupids want? send AFP to help Kirams and reclaim sabah? use that something between your ears!

  4. LCsiao says:

    To say that the current Palace occupant isn’t corrupt betrays an absolute lack of critical thinking.

    To claim that he has not illegally abandoned the nation’s Sabah claim despite him openly declaring it as a “hopeless cause” is another example.

    • raja says:

      It is a hopeless cause the people of sabah do not want to be apart of Philippines or sulu that legal under international law what is not legal is to claim sabah based off a contract between a murderous pirate who had no rights over sabah and a capitalistic coloniser the people trump and thump monarchs

  5. As natives of Borneo, we do not want this sULTAN of sULU. We are free people and if the Philippines wants to colonize us, we will fight. If you so wish it, we, the Dayaks from the Land of the Head Hunters, will deal with you the way we deal with your forefathers.

  6. raja says:

    The bias in this article is curious although an interesting point about Aquinos business in Malaysia however more probably realises Philippines has zero claim to Sabah the fraudelent sultan is a thug and nothing more and the allegations of “abuse” are nothing more than the sour grapes of illegal filipinos who got booted out. If Malaysia wad really killing “filipinos” randomly why are there only 5000 or so people who fled and not 100000? is it because malaysia is treating them better than Philippines.
    Consider this i am sure you know of the Sri Lankan war of 2008 in which SL forces commited abuses against tamils and guess what there is footage pictures and physical evidence of it where is the proof of Malaysian abuses?

  7. bonitokun says:

    I don’t know how long this post is but I think why blame it to Sultan Kiram. He reached out to our government but they did not listen to his side. Sultan Kiram is the rightful heir of Sabah that is why he is so eager to claim it… I really don’t know the roots of the relationship of Malaysia-Aquino but as far as I remember it was Ninoy who revealed the Operation Merdeka(sabah invasion)..

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