Ira Panganiban, a seasoned Philippine observer, sees something wrong with what President Benigno Aquino said about the Sabah incident. He says that Aquino committed a grave error when he described the Sultan of Sulu's Sabah claim as "hopeless". That statement has shown Malacanang' true sentiment about the issue of Sabah--it does not care and has distanced itself from the claims of the Kiram.
The question is now before us--was President Aquino's speech a clear indication that the Philippine government has abandoned the Sabah claim? If that is what Aquino is trying to say, did he commit a culpable violation of the Constitution since this claim is clearly a government policy?
Article I, section 1 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution is clear---the issue on Sabah is definitely included in the definition of our territory, and thus, one of the stated policies of this government is to pursue this issue to its logical conclusion which is transference of the land to the jurisdiction of the Philippines.
Fact is, Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos signed a law specifically addressing this issue by saying that even if we admit the baseline method of determining territory, it still does not follow that Sabah is not rightfully ours.
Numerous predecessors of Aquino had likewise articulated the same thing. Even former Senate president Jovito Salonga, a noted Constitutionalist thinks the same thing.
Memorandum Circular no. 162 issued just last 2008, clearly defines Malacanang stand on Sabah. Republic Act no. 5446 stipulates that the baseline method does not exclude North Borneo and Sabah over which the Republic of the Philippines claim sovereignty and dominion.
These are existing policies and laws which President Benigno S Aquino III has set aside and for what? Was it ignorance on the part of Malacanan or a deliberate act so as to not anger the Malaysian side?
As they say, ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance therewith.
As the prime implementor of the laws of the land, the President should have been clearly advised on what to say at these critical times. The very fact that the President himself publicly admitted the claim as "hopeless" shows his bias and partiality with the Malaysian side. Was it because the Malaysians are contemplating on pouring billions of pesos worth of investments in Mindanao the minute the GRP-MILF peace accord takes effect?
Whatever the President's alibi is, the fact remains that the President issued a statement contrary to the stated policies of this government and therefore, should be reprimanded for it. The institution of the Presidency is just one pillar in our democratic society and it is not immune to investigation.
The Sabah standoff just opened the possibility of an impeachment complaint against the President and all because of the stupidity of several "advisers" who simply do not realize the very implications of a public pronouncement.
Goig back to our earlier question---was this a culpable violation of the Constitution, this act of describing the Sabah claim as a "hopeless case"?
When we say "culpable violation of the Constitution", it means a "deliberate breach of the Constitution." Did the policy change when the President described the situation as "hopeless"? No. There was no overt act to undermine government policy and there is also , no act that clearly stated that government is changing or has changed its stand relative to the Sabah claim.
What President Aquino, at best did, was show how ignorant he is or his team about the politics behind the Sabah claim.