Privilege Speech of Senator Lorenzo Sumulong on Philippines' North Borneo (Sabah) Claim
Philippine Senate, March 25, 1963.
I have refrained from discussing on the floor of the Senate the Malaysia plan or the alternative plan of a Greater Malayan Confederation proposed by President Macapagal in connection with the Philippine claim of sovereignty to a portion of North Borneo, while the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations and National Defense and Security were holding joint closed-door hearings in Camp Murphy.
As your Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, I had made my own studies and researches, but I thought that there might be new facts and considerations which our defense and foreign affairs officials might bring to our attention during the briefing.
Now that the briefing is over and the administration experts have submitted to the two Committees all the facts within their knowledge and possession, I believe it is already proper, nay, I believe it is my duty to submit for the consideration of the entire Senate and of our people the facts and considerations which I believe are material and necessary to the formation and crystallization of an intelligent opinion about the two plans. In so doing, I want to make clear the responsibility for the facts and considerations I am about to present is my own.
I want to make clear that I am always subject to correction. If my facts and considerations are wrong, I would be ready to admit and correct my mistakes. And I do hope that others will do likewise.
Under the United Nations Charter, it is the duty of every colonial power administering non-self-government or independence and until that people has been made self-governing or independent, it is the duty of the colonial power to submit to the United Nations every year a report of its administration of the territory.
The duty of the administering power to prepare the non-self-governing territory for self-government or independence is provided for in Chapter XI, Article 73 b of the United Nations Charter which makes it the duty of the administering power "to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the (non-self-governing) peoples and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions."
No RP Protest
Since the organization of the United Nations in 1945, Britain in accordance with the obligations imposed by the Charter has declared herself to be the colonial power administering Sarawak as British colony and has been submitting to the United Nations every year a report of her administration of these three non-self-governing territories. During all that time, the Philippines as a member of the United Nations has not put forward any claim of sovereignty over North Borneo, nor has the Philippines registered any reservation or protest to the report submitted by Britain to the United Nations every year as the administering power over North Borneo. It was only in December of last year (1962) that the Philippine delegation, during the consideration of the yearly report of the British administration over North Borneo in the Trusteeship Committee, made a reservation contesting for the first time the right of the British to rule and administer North Borneo.
Why was the Philippine claim of sovereignty to North Borneo so tardily presented in the United Nations? The answer is that North Borneo is not a part of the national territory of the Philippines as defined and delimited in our Constitution. When the United Nations was organized in 1945, the claimants to North Borneo was not the Philippines but the heirs of the late Sultan Jamalul Kiram who died in 1936. If the said heirs had any claims to sovereignty over North Borneo — as distinguished from their proprietary claims — they could have filed a petition or a reservation to the United Nations protesting against British rule and administration over North Borneo, but they did not file any such petition or reservation. It was only in February of last year (1962) that the said heirs informed our Department of Foreign Affairs that they were claiming sovereignty to North Borneo and they offered to turn over such claim of sovereignty to the Republic of the Philippines, reserving however to themselves their proprietary claims.
This offer was accepted by President Macapagal and to give semblance of legality to the transfer of sovereignty from the said heirs to the Republic of the Philippines, in September of last year (1962) out of the several surviving heirs of Sultan Jamalul Kiram who died in 1936, Esmail Kiram was proclaimed the new Sultan of Sulu claiming to possess all the attributes and prerogatives of a sovereign ruler and as such he executed a deed of cession of his alleged claim of sovereignty to North Borneo in favor of the Republic of the Philippines.
I am and have always been in favor of our government giving every possible support to the proprietary claims of the heirs of the late Sultan Jamalul Kiram. But I have always believed as I still believe that it was a mistake for the President Macapagal to have agreed to such transfer of the claim of sovereignty from the said heirs to the Republic of the Philippines for the following reasons:
(1) The said heirs had never filed a petition or reservation before the United Nations claiming sovereignty to North Borneo and protesting British rule and administration thereof. Since the transferee acquires no better rights than the transferor, this weakens the present claim of the Republic of the Philippines.
(2) Even if the said heirs had a strong claim of sovereignty to North Borneo, our government should have advised them to file a petition or reservation to that effect before the United Nations, instead of agreeing to a transfer of such claim of sovereignty to the Republic of the Philippines. If the said heirs lose their case before the United Nations, there would be no loss of honor of prestige for the Republic of the Philippines. As it is now, if the belated claim of sovereignty of the Republic of the Philippines to a portion of North Borneo does not prosper in the United Nations, the damage to our national honor and prestige would be incalculable. We would appear as attempting to colonize North Borneo without any lawful or just cause, contrary to our vehement denunciations of colonialism and our loud demands that the grant of self-government or independence to subject peoples be accelerated. Even if the United Nations should sustain the belated Philippine claim of sovereignty to North Borneo, we stand to gain nothing because we are committed to speedily end our rule and administration there, grant its people self-government or independence and respect their will and wishes as to whether they will join the Federation of Malaysia or the Greater Malayan Confederation proposed by President Macapagal.
(3) Contrary to the impression created in the minds of our people, the claim of sovereignty put forward by our government as transferee of the Sultan of Sulu does not cover the entire area of North Borneo, but only a portion thereof. This was admitted by the Philippine panel during the London talks, but the administration of President Macapagal has kept mum and has not brought this important fact to the attention of our people. During our joint committee meetings in Camp Murphy, I asked the members of the Philippine panel present if they could tell us the exact metes and bounds and the exact area of this portion of North Borneo claimed by our government but none could give us a positive answer. This was amazing in the extreme. When a man sues in court to recover title and possession to a piece of land, the first thing he has to prove in court is the identity of the land. But here is the administration of President Macapagal involving the honor and prestige of our government in a claim of sovereignty to a portion of North Borneo, without being able to tell us the identity of that portion. And yet, administration stalwarts have been daring the British to have the case tried and decided by the International Court of Justice.
From the compilation of documents submitted to us by Minister Benito Bautista of the Department of Foreign Affairs, I found that before Overbeck and Dent entered into the contract of January 12,1878 with the Sultan of Sulu, they had previously obtained from the Sultan of Brunei four other similar contracts on December 29,1877. As narrated by K. G. Tregonning in his book entitled Under Chartered Company Rule and borne out by the descriptions contained in the four contracts of the Sultan of Brunei.
"The Sultan (of Brunei), in three grants of territory from Gaya Bay on the west coast to the Sibuco River on the east; and the Pengeran Tumongong (heir to the Sultan of Brunei) in a grant of his west coast possessions, the rivers Kimanis and Benowi, ceded to Overbeck and Dent, with all the powers of sovereignty, some 28,000 square miles of territory, embracing 900 miles of North Bornean coastline, for a total yearly payment of Malayan $ 5,000." (op.cit. P-14)
In the later contract with the Sultan of Sulu, the territory ceded to Overbeck and Dent was from the Pandassan River on the west coast to the Sibuco River on the east, for which the Sultan of Sulu was to receive a yearly payment of Malayan $ 5,000. A look at the map of North Borneo will show that Gaya Bay is farther to the west than Pandassan River. So the territory ceded under the four contracts with the Sultan of Brunei was more extensive and embraced the territory ceded under the contract with the Sultan of Sulu. Why did Overbeck and Dent still contracted with the Sultan of Sulu for territory already ceded to them under the four contracts with the Sultan of Brunei? According to Professor Tregonning in his aforecited book, after Overbeck and Dent had negotiated the four contracts with the Sultan of Brunei, they learned later that the northeast coast, which comprised a large portion of the territory ceded by the Sultan of Brunei, was in the hands of the Sultan of Sulu who claimed to have received it from the Sultan of Brunei in 1704 in return for the help in suppressing a rebellion and it was for this reason that they negotiated the contract with the Sultan of Sulu on January 12,1878 (op. cit. pp. 11,14-15). From this it appears that the territory claimed and ceded by the Sultan of Sulu on January 12, 1878 was likewise claimed and had been previously ceded by the Sultan of Brunei on December 29,1877 and that Overbeck and Dent evaluated the rights acquired from the Sultan of Brunei to be three times greater than the rights acquired from the Sultan of Sulu, the yearly payment to the former being Malayan $ 15,000 and to the latter Malayan $ 5,000. It is small wonder that the administration of President Macapagal is at a loss to identify the portion of North Borneo subject of their claim of sovereignty,
It should be the common concern of the Philippines and of all countries whose peoples believe in the free and democratic way of life, to see to it that Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo, are not only speedily decolonized and granted self-government or independence, but also adequately safeguarded against the danger of communist infiltration and subversion once they become self-governing or independent.
The balance of power in Asia between the forces of freedom on the one hand and the forces of communism on the other, is in a very precarious and critical posture today. Laos has turned neutralist. The ruler of Cambodia has decided to align himself on the side of Red China. South Vietnam is facing a life and death struggle with the Viet Congs. India's borders have been invaded by Red China. If Sarawak, Brunei, North Borneo and Singapore, should be lost to the free world by their turning communist or neutralist, the peace and security of the free world countries in Asia including the Philippines would be gravely imperilled.
We in the Philippines are firmly and uncompromisingly against communism. Whether under the former Nacionalista administration or under the present Liberal administration, that has been our consistent policy. We are a religious people and we cannot accept a godless ideology. We want progress, but we do not want to achieve progress through dictatorship and violence; we want to achieve progress through freedom and peaceful reform.
In the fight between the forces of freedom and the forces of communism, we do not believe in being neutralist or non-aligned. We want to stand up and be counted on the side of the forces of freedom.
And because the military power of the forces of communism is great due to their tremendous human and material resources, no nation can resist and fight them alone and unaided. The forces of freedom must combine and cooperate militarily and economically in order to balance the military and economic power of the forces of communism. Thus, we have entered into defensive alliances like the mutual defense pact with the US and the SEATO pact.
The Federation of Malaysia is the British plan of giving self-government to Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo and at the same time safeguard them against communist infiltration and subversion. Under the plan, Britain will relinquish sovereignty over Sarawak and North Borneo and withdraw protection over Brunei and then these three newly independent states will join the 11 states now composing the Federation of Malaya and Singapore in forming the Federation of Malaysia. In other words, the present Federation of Malaya will be enlarged by bringing in Singapore, Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo as new members and as thus enlarged it will be renamed Federation of Malaysia. The present mutual defense pact between Britain and the Federation of Malaya will then be extended to this enlarged Federation of Malaysia.
The plan is to follow the same pattern by which Malaya was given independence on August 31, 1957 and by means of a mutual defense pact with the former mother country (Britain), receive such military and economic aid to enable her to fight communist infiltration and subversion successfully.
Let us recall the history of Malaya. For a hundred years, Malaya was under British rule before she won her independence on August 31, 1957. Malaya is a Federation of 11 states, two of which were formerly British colonies and the remaining nine were formerly protectorates. Under her constitution, these 11 states upon becoming independent agreed to form a Federation with a federal parliament composed of two houses in which each of the 11 states was given representation.
When she became independent in 1957, Malaya was faced with a grave internal problem of communist infiltration and subversion. In population, the Chinese is the second biggest in number, next only to the Malays, so that the danger of Chinese communist infiltration and subversion was real and acute. This danger had to be met realistically and the leaders of Malaya realized that it had to be fought not only with military but also with economic weapons, for which they needed British aid and cooperation. So, the leaders of Malaya evolved a five-year development plan to improve the livelihood of the people so that they will not be enticed by communist propaganda harping on the poverty of the masses and promising a classless society where there will be no poor and no rich. This five-year development plan involved an expenditure of Malayan $ 1,358,000,000 and the British government agreed to give extensive financial help to it and the plan was so well implemented that Malaya has achieved an economic progress next only to Japan in the whole Far East as shown by her per capita income which is second only to Japan. Also, there was a British grant of Malayan $ 114 million for the establishment of the federal armed forces of Malaya and for the first three years a yearly grant of Malayan $ 25 million to help Malaya deal with the terrorist problem. Through these economic and military measures, Malaya under the leadership of Tungku Abdul Rahman was able to break the communist backbone in that country, in the same way that through similar economic and military measures, Magsaysay was able to break the communist backbone here in our country, so that the names of Abdul Rahman and Magsaysay rank high in the roster of successful communist fighters in Asia.
Because of the success of the Federation of Malaya under the leadership of Abdul Rahman and with the British military and economic aid to fight communist infiltration and subversion, it is also expected that the enlarged Federation of Malaysia under the same leadership of Abdul Rahman and with continued British military and economic aid will be able to meet and overcome any communist attempt to capture Singapore, Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo through infiltration and subversive activities.
It is pertinent to point out that Singapore, Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo are outside the SEATO area so that they cannot rely on the SEATO for protection against communism. Neither can they rely on US military or economic aid, since the present trend in American foreign policy as manifested in Senator Mansfield's position is to cut down on American foreign aid by not giving to those countries to which the US has not heretofore given aid and to gradually reduce the amount as to those countries to which the US has been giving aid. It is only Britain which can be expected to extend military and economic aid to these countries once they become independent because Britain is their former mother country and because of the close trade and economic ties that will have to continue even after the severance of political ties between' them.
Let me now turn to the Greater Confederation of Malay States proposed by President Macapagal. Is this a better substitute to the Malaysia plan as an instrumentality to make Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo safe and secure against communist infiltration and subversion once these countries become self-governing or independent? According to President Macapagal, it is a better substitute. For my part, I cannot say whether it is a better substitute or not, for the simple reason that its proponents cannot give us any information as to what concretely and specifically are the plans and the ways and means by which this Greater Malayan Confederation is expected to help protect Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo against communist infiltration and subversion. All that we are told is that the proposed members of are Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak, Brunei, North Borneo and the Philippines. According to President Macapagal in a recent interview with a correspondent of Agence de France, all that he could say was that the proposed members will retain their separate sovereignties. This means that the Philippine claim to a portion of North Borneo will be given so that North Borneo may become independent and sovereign and thus qualify to be a memberof this Greater Malayan Confederation. I have asked before and I now again ask: Is it the plan that this Greater Malayan Confederation will not seek any outside military or economic aid either from Britain or from the US and that each member state will just rely on her own military and economic resources to fight communist infiltration and subversion? Is the Philippines ready to extend military and economic aid to North Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak and if so, how much is the present administration willing to appropriate for this purpose? What joint and common measures will the member states take in order to help each other in fighting communist infiltration and subversion? Will there be a common armed force? Will there be a common economic program? Or will this be a purely social club? These questions are relevant, material and pertinent and must be answered by President Macapagal and the proponent of the Greater Malayan Confederation, before they can expect any Filipino to rally to its support and before they can expect the proposed member-states of such Confederation to be convinced that it is a better and more effective instrument than the Malaysia plan to combat and overcome the communist menace in their respective territories. I regret to report that in the joint committee hearings of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and National Defense and Security, none of the defense and foreign officials present could give any answer to these questions and they confessed to our amazement and surprise that the detailed plans and objectives of this projected Greater Malayan Confederation have not been spelled out.
From the foregoing facts and considerations, I submit to the Senate and to our people the following conclusions:
(1) If the administration of President Macapagal seriously believes that the Philippine claim of sovereignty to a portion of North Borneo should be prosecuted to the bitter end, it must be prepared to establish the identity of that portion whether the case is brought before the International Court of Justice or before the United Nations.
(2) If the Philippines lose its case, the damage to the honor and prestige of our Republic would be incalculable. We would appear as having attempted to colonize a portion of North Borneo without any lawful or just cause, forgetting our colonialism and our loud demands for accelerating the grant of self-government or independence to subject peoples especially those in Asia.
(3) Even if the Philippines win its case, we stand to gain nothing because under the United Nations charter, the Bandung Conference declaration and the 1960 decolonization resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, we have to give up our rule and administration to the portion of North Borneo we are claiming, grant its people self-government or independence and respect their will and wishes as to whether they will join the Federation of Malaysia or the Greater Malayan Confederation or exist as a separate independent state. In this connection, it is worthy of note that judging from press reports of Filipino newspapermen who had gone to North Borneo, the popular reaction there to our claim of sovereignty is one of surprise and resentment rather than sympathy and support.
(4) If President Macapagal honestly believes that the Federation of Malaysia plan is not according with the freely expressed will and wishes of the people of North Borneo, despite the information recently given by the Mayor of Jesselton while here as an ECAFE delegates that 96 out of 111 representatives elected to the legislative council of North Borneo last December favor Malaysia, he can raise the question before the United Nations and ask that a plebiscite be held under the auspices of the world organization to determine whether the people of North Borneo really favor Malaysia or not. And if Indonesia insists that the peoples of Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo are against Malaysia, we should point out to her that there is available UN machinery and there is the peaceful remedy of asking for a plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations, which renders unnecessary resort to war or use offeree and violence.
(5) If President Macapagal honestly believes that his proposed Greater Malayan Confederation is a better substitute to the Malaysia plan to defend and protect ourselves and the other Malayan peoples of Asia against the danger of communist infiltration and subversion, then he must abandon talking in platitudes and generalities and at once spell out concretely and specifically, the ways and means, the military and economic aid if any by which the Greater Malayan Confederation expects to help the people of North Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak to fight and overcome successfully the forces of communism once they become self-governing or independent.
(6) Our people must be told and made to realize that if we are to be consistent with our avowed policy of opposing communism firmly and uncompromisingly, then for the peace and security not only of ourselves but of our free world allies in Asia, we must see to it that North Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak, remain on the side of the free would and not turn communist or neutralist, once they become self-governing or independent.
(7) Rather than prosecute the Philippine claim of sovereignty to a portion of North Borneo to the bitter end. I for one believe in all sincerity that under the present circumstances, the better course to follow is for our government to inform the United Nations in due time, i.e., when the Federation of Malaysia plan is submitted for consideration in the United Nations that we are voluntarily relinquishing whatever claim of sovereignty we may have to any portion of North Borneo in order to accelerate the changing of its status from a non-self governing territory to that of a self-governing or independent state and that we favor holding a plebiscite under United Nations auspices to give the people of North Borneo the opportunity to freely express their will and wishes as to whether they want to join the Federation of Malaysia or the Greater Malayan Confederation or exist as a separate independent state.