Defense Chief denies calling Kiram's men “guns for hire”

Dennis D. Estopace, Reporter
March 26, 2013
 GOVERNMENT officials united on calling Filipinos affected by the row in Sabah as the “displaced” as Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin denied a Malaysian counterpart’s reference to the “Royal Sultanate Army” as “guns for hire.”

“I never said ‘guns for hire;’ I didn’t say that. Who said that? We call them RSA,” the Department of National Defense (DND) chief said during the meeting of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) on Monday.

The members of the NDRRMC, which Gazmin heads, also agreed to unite on a common terminology “so that we can come up with a unified response.”

This developed as another 186 Filipinos arrived in Tawi-Tawi from Sabah as of early afternoon Monday, bringing to 3,879 the total number of those displaced since March 4.

“The media should be careful in the use of such terms because it may cause confusion and additional problems that we don’t need right now,” Gazmin said.

Gazmin referred to the report by the New Strait Times of Malaysia that quoted Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi saying he corroborated such term referring to the followers of Datu Azzimudie Agbimuddin Kiram as “mercenaries.”

Gazmin didn't only deny telling Hamidi that but also said the Malaysian government would still have to prove if Agbimuddin’s followers are committing an “act of terrorism.”

“So, right now, they are still part of the Royal Sultanate Army, RSA.”

To note, in his letter to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Sulu and North Borneo Sultan Jamalul Kiram III referred to the followers of his brother Datu Azzimudie Agbimuddin as the Royal Security Force (RSF).

The 250 Royal forces of the Sultanate of Sulu has engaged Malaysian authorities in a firefight that began in Lahad Datu on March 1. The Sultanate of Sulu’s claim on the island is being contested by Malaysia.

Gazmin reminded the media that “there are two laws being discussed here: the Philippines’s and Malaysia’s” and, hence, “be very careful in the terms.”

Gazmin said that beginning Monday, government would also avoid referring to Filipinos affected by the violence in Sabah as “refugees,” “returnees,” “evacuees,” or “balik-bayan.”

The Council, which is an agency attached to the DND Office of Civil Defense, also reiterated that the word “Malaysia” shouldn’t follow the Sabah when referring to that island that is a stone’s throw away from Sulu.

Roy A. Ecraela, representing the Department of Foreign Affairs in the NDRRMC, said this is proper because of Republic Act 5446, “which defines the country’s borders,”

“Likewise, we still have Article 1 of the Philippine Constitution,” said Ecraela of the DFA Office of the Undersecretary of Special and Ocean Concerns.

Ecraela also noted the July 16, 2011, decision of the Supreme Court, “which refers to Philippine government being able to pursue its claims on Sabah.”

However, the NDRRMC would still have to confirm another claim that Datu Agbimuddin was once a Malaysian public servant.


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