We had a lot going for us back then. We had in our possession the ultimate deed of transfer of sovereignty from the proprietary right holders of Sabah, we had a great defence force with highly trained and battle tested professionals and we had leaders with first class brains arguing for the Republic's right to receive full ownership of the domain. Indeed, there were many elements in our favour then even if we lacked the backing of a major ally and even as the Malaya Federation was being backed by its British masters...
Could we have taken possession of Sabah 'legally' and diplomatically, i.e., through the UN, even without US backing? I don't think so. President Macapagal in all likelihood, the diplomat hors pair that he was known for, would not have approved of "going it alone." At the time, we would not have been bold enough to tackle the British in the UN without official US backing, our major trading partner, our masters so to speak whose policies we breathed and lived. True, President Macapagal could be stubborn as when he tweaked the US when he decided to change the date of PH independence but he knew that he could only go so far...
Now, as if the 'absence' of backing by a major ally was not bad enough, we also had in our midst then, a charismatic member of the Senate, an internationally famous ex-diplomat known for having flexed verbal muscles with Khruschev, who was fighting tooth and nail against the Republic's claim on behalf of the Malayans (and by extension, on behalf of the British) at a time when our own leaders were trying to hard to convince the British that they were wrong not to return Sabah to its rightful owners. He was the Philippines''Brutus' in the overall scheme of things. (His descendant is doing the same thing today.) I am convinced that 'Brutus' vitriolic assault on the Republic's claim gave Britain and Malaya the great excuse to say that because PH did not know what it wanted, they would be deciding the fate of Sabah.
In hindsight, diplomacy and beautifully crafted words proved futile. We should have gone with guns blazing and physically battled to get Sabah back. It would or could have forced the great nations to stop and listen to us instead of allowing ourselves to keel over without a fight. If we had to lose, we would have had, at the very least, the satisfaction of having fought a battle that was worth fighting.
Today, we mourn the lost opportunity. Malaya, on the other hand, is jubilant. They not only have managed to steal Sabah from us and became extra-ordinarily rich, thanks to Sabah's resources, they have also kept us divided, and at war among ourselves in the South. However one may want to look at it, the Malayans have humiliated us into abject surrender. I am sure that their coup de grace will not be long in coming as they prepare to dismantle the Republic...
But all is not lost! As ever, for as long as there is life, one must not give up! We may have lost a battle but not the war...
~~ Anne de Bretagne
for the Philippine Sabah Claim Forum
and for the Defenders of the Philippine Sabah and Spratly Claims
31 August 2013
President Macapagal’s State of the Nation Address, on the Filing of the Claim of Sovereignty over North Borneo
28 January 1963
Source: Extract from President Macapagal’s State of the Nation Address, delivered before a Joint Session of the Philippines Congress. Philippines Republic, Congressional Record, 5th Congress, 2nd Session, 28 January 1963, p.42
The most important action taken in the field of foreign relations in the past year was the official filing on June 22, 1962, with the United Kingdom of the Philippine claim of sovereignty, jurisdiction and proprietary ownership over North Borneo as successor-in-interest of the Sultan of Sulu.
We are gratified at the goodwill shown by the United Kingdom in holding the talks in London in pursuance of our note on June 22, 1962, in which talk an opportunity has been opened for a friendly scrutiny of the Philippine claim, taken with the security problems of South-east Asia.
2. Contrary to allegation in some political quarters, this was not a precipitate action. We have personally studied this claim over a period of years. While serving in the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1946, upon a study of this claim in connection with our successful negotiation for the reacquisition of the Turtle Islands, we advocated the filing of this claim.
3. In 1948, while serving in the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC, we went over the claim with an American expert in Anglo-Saxon law in George Washington University who sustained the view that this is a valid claim. When we served in the Congress of the Philippines, we successfully authored and sponsored in 1950, a resolution for the filing of this claim. Upon becoming President of the Philippines, acting on the conviction that this was not only a valid claim but that its presentation was demanded by the national interest, it became our inescapable duty to act on the bipartisan resolution of the House of Representatives on April 24, 1962, that the claim be filed now or never.
4. The situation is that the Philippines not only has valid and historic claim to North Borneo. In addition, the pursuit of the claim is itself vital to our national security. We could not merely view the placing of North Borneo under Malaya, without presentation and consideration of our legitimate claim to North Borneo. Our claim to North Borneo cannot be less than the claim of Malaya to the territory not only on the basis of superior juridical and historical rights but in the vital interest of our national security.
5. Malaya has no valid claim or right to take over North Borneo. Furthermore, if through arbitrary arrangement, the Borneo territory is placed under Malaya, the latter cannot likely insure for long the security of North Borneo for the free world. A profound and farsighted contemplation of the present and potential security posture in the whole region will conclusively support the judgment that the restoration of North Borneo as part of the territory of the Philippines would be the durable measure that could best insure against territorial disequilibrium and restlessness in the area and could constitute the firm and stabilizing factor to maintain and safeguard the security of the region.
6. The project to place North Borneo, together with Brunei and Sarawak, under Malaya has already provoked a revolt in Brunei. It can be expected that Indonesia will not settle down accepting the authority of Malaya over Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo. Moreover, the proposed Federation of Malaysia is not in accordance with the principle of self-determination, which is the accepted way out of colonialism, but appears to be a continuation of colonialism based only on an expedient of false security.
7. It was imperative that the Philippine claim be, as it was made because if North Borneo was not to be by itself independent but was to be placed under another state there is no valid reason why, the legal and historic basis of the Philippine claim, and considering that North Borneo is contiguous to Philippine territory and vital to our security, the new State to be given jurisdiction over North Borneo should not be the Philippines.
8. It is vital to the security of the Philippines that North Borneo be not placed under the sovereignty and jurisdiction of another State, particularly a state on the Asian mainland like Malaya. In the event, God forbid, that Malaya succumbs to the potent communist threat on the Asian mainland, with North Borneo under Malaya, there would be created a situation in which a communist territory would be immediately at the southern frontier of the Philippines, which would pose a grave and intolerable threat to our country. Against such threat, we know that our people will fight to the death, for they will rather die fighting for freedom than live in slavery.
PRINCIPLE OF SELF-DETERMINATION
9. In laying claim to North Borneo in pursuance of the legal and historic rights and the security interest of the Philippines, we recognize the cardinal principle of self-determination of which the Philippines has been a steadfast adherent. In the prosecution of our valid claim, it is agreeable to us that at an appropriate time the people of North Borneo should be given an opportunity to determine whether they would wish to be independent or whether they would wish to be part of the Philippines or be placed under another state. Such referendum, however, should be authentic and bona fide by holding it under conditions, preferably supervised by the United Nations, that would insure effective freedom to the people of North Borneo to express their true and enlightened will.
Admin's NOTE: Thanks go to Filipina Maharlika for the President Diosdado Macapagal State of the Nation Speech document. Filipina Maharlika is one of the founding members of the Philippine Sabah Claim Forum.
- Link to extract from President D Macapagal's State of the Nation Address on the Republic's filing of sovereignty claim to Sabah (Philippine Sabah Claim Forum)
- President Macapagal with Indonesia's Soekarno and Malaya Federation's Tunku Abdul Rahman on the signing of the Manila Accord.
- President Macapagal with then Senate President Marcos. Both played pivotal roles in the Republic's sovereignty claim to Sabah.