One factor that is essential in the comprehension of the Sabah problem is to understand that Sabah was only officially colonised by the British Crown only in 1946 which means that UNTIL THEN, North Borneo (Sabah) WAS PART of the Sultanate of Sulu although leased.
Despite Britain's official colonisation of Sabah from 1946 until 1963, it is my opinion that Sabah's sovereignty, although compromised by the British colonisation, still legally belonged to the Sultanate of Sulu. However, we all know that the Sultanate of Sulu ceded full sovereignty of Sabah to the Philippine Republic on 12 Septemeber 1962 while it was still a colony of Britain.
On 31 July 1963, prior to the creation of the Malaysia Federation, the Manila Accord was signed by three heads of state namely, Macapagal of the Ph ilippines, Soekarno of Indonesia and Rahman of the Malaya Federation (which was not yet Malaysia Federation). Registered as United Nations Treaty 8029, Section 12 of the Manila Accord stipulated that Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, on behalf of the Malaya Federation, agreed that the Philippine Sabah claim would not be extinguished by the then to-be-created Malaysia Federation (which was to be created later on 16th September 1963.)
On 31 August 1963, Britain granted Sabah, which had been under British Crown control since 1946 (and whose sovereignty rights had been ceded the year before to the Republic of the Phlippines), its independence.
On 16 September 1963 or sixteen days after Britain granted Sabah its independence, and despite PH protests, it was annexed to a new federation in the making called MALAYSIA instead of returning it either to the Sultanate of Sulu or to the Republic of the Philippines which had already inherited sovereignty rights over Sabah from the Sultanate by virtue of the transfer on 12 September 1962.
On 18 September 1968, while Malaysia had taken de facto control of Sabah, the Republic of the Philippines enacted an act - AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION ONE OF REPUBLIC ACT NUMBERED THIRTY HUNDRED AND FORTY-SIX, ENTITLED “AN ACT TO DEFINE THE BASELINES OF THE TERRITORIAL SEA OF THE PHILIPPINES” - to ammend our baselines and known today as Republic Act 5446 which acknowledges title and dominion over Sabah, thus by PH law, Sabah is Philippine territory. RA 5446 is still in vigour.
As Law Professor Isagani Cruz says:
"President Noynoy faces an insoluble dilemma. If he believes that Sabah is part of the Philippines, he has to defend Sabah because Malaysia is attacking it. If he does not believe that Sabah is part of the Philippines, he opens himself up to impeachment, because Philippine law says that Sabah is part of the Philippines and he is sworn to uphold Philippine law. Talking of a conspiracy does not solve the problem; in fact, it is irrelevant if there is or there is no conspiracy. The dilemma has to do simply with his stand on Sabah itself."To my mind, the Sultanate of Sulu, and by extension the royal heirs, is irrelevant in the PH claim because Sabah is already PH territory by PH law. The Philippine Republic, however, has contractual obligations which it signed when it accepted from the Sultanate of Sulu the full transfer of sovereignty rights in 1962 and one of these contractual obligations is to prosecute the claim and in so doing, help the Sultante of Sulu's proprietary rights to be recognised. So we cannot actually take it against the Sultanate for feeling doubly rebuffed. It is the Philippine Republic's contractual obligation to do it and the Government has been remiss in its obligations.
NB: The relevant point in the Sabah question is THE NINE SULTANATE HEIRS and not whoever the sultan is. The Philippine Government must not use the Kirams' intra-family bickering as an excuse NOT to perform the Republic's contractual obligation.
Nota Bene: OTHER VERY IMPORTANT NOTE THAT EVERYONE MUST KNOW: When the Sabah lease was signed 134 years ago -- on the 22nd of January 1878, between the Sultanate of Sulu & Sabah and two foreign businessmen, the Sultanate ensured that their rights to Sabah ownership were protected with this all encompassing moral and legal clause clearly spelled out in the lease contract, to wit (Restrictive clause):
"...but the rights and powers hereby leased shall not be transferred to any nation, or a company of other nationality, without the consent of Their Majesties Government."Related story in this blog link: Nemo nos impune lacessit (No one hits us with impunity)
Link to Republic Act 5446 /
~~ By Anne de Bretagne
For the Defenders of the Philippine Sabah Claim
05 March 2013