File the Case and Move On

Over the Holy Week, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda announced that the president was going to study Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s legal brief on the Sabah claim.

According to De Lima the main considerations of her legal brief are, “Is the claim strong or not and should it be pursued before an appropriate tribunal, and what are the options in light of the current situation?”

Obviously, President Aquino has not abandoned the Philippine government’s claim of sovereignty over Sabah. And he will be looking for the best peaceful way to pursue the claim.

The president does not have to spend too much time on the De Lima report. He can just go ahead and file the claim before the UN and announce that the Philippines will accept unconditionally whatever decision the UN makes. Let a credible third party decide who is right. That will put an end to all the internal squabbling over the legitimacy of our sovereignty claim. (The property claim of the Kiram’s is a private matter separate from our sovereignty claim. One should not conflate the two into one issue.)

Media also reported that Lacierda announced the possibility of hiring a foreign law firm to handle the Sabah claim. That would be a big mistake. Okay, the government uses private lawyers, foreign or local, whenever needed but in this particular case hiring foreign lawyers in lieu of natives will only lead to more controversies and all sorts of jingoist criticisms from saber-rattling patriots.

The correct course of action will be to ask all those patriotic native lawyers who have been vociferously claiming that our sovereignty claim is strong to represent us. Let them present the case in court and not in the media.

The Palace could scour media, get the names of all the lawyers who gave media a legal opinion on the legality of our claim and invite them to form a team to represent the country. Sila ang mga nagmamarunong eh di sila ang humarap sa hukuman.

If they lose, they will have no one to blame except themselves. If they win then good for all of us. Doubly good that it was Filipino legal minds that won. Either way the legal squabbling, all the know it all punditry, and all the beating of war drums will stop.

What if Malaysia refuses to submit to the jurisdiction of an international tribunal? Then that’s for the international tribunal to decide once we submit our case.

This Sabah business has to end. Once and for all, sooner rather than later. File the case, submit to the court’s decision whatever it may be, and move on. We should busy ourselves with building a nation, not dreaming of lost kingdoms.

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph).

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