Returning from a conference in Israel, with sophisticated communications equipment he recruited a Scout Ranger officer, Captain Solferino Titong, who was an expert in communications, with the mission to obtain information on events in North Borneo. He was to ingratiate himself with the new Malaysian authorities and get in a position of trust. He could not have gotten any closer, he managed to get the trust of the then Chief Minister, Tun Mustapha bin Datu Harun, a Suluk/Bajau (Tausug) and a relative of the Sultan of Sulu.
A year later, Ileto left the NICA for a new appointment as commander of a PC zone. But Titong stayed on in Sabah. ln 1967, Maj. Eduardo Martelino learned of Titong and tapped him to lead the team of infiltrators, this time for Oplan Merdeka.
Malaysia seemed an easy and vulnerable target at that time. The Federation was new and still fragile, having come into being only in 1963. It had barely taken off when Singapore, a member of the Federation of Malaya, decided to break away in 1965. Malaysia was engaged in a border dispute with its giant neighbor, Indonesia.
Manila wanted to pursue its claim to Sabah at the World Court in the Hague and any discontent in the territory might have encouraged the Philippines to abandon diplomatic channels for more direct methods. True enough, Marcos cast his eyes on a country that was still on its way to political cohesion.
Capt Titong was extracted out of Sabah in the aftermath of the exposé of the operation.
*Originally posted on Defenders of the Philippine Sabah and Spratly Claims