ARMM governors ask fellow Pinoy muslims in Sabah to 'come home'

The violent exchange of attacks in Sabah has been hurting thousands of Filipino Muslims in the Philippines, a group of Muslim leaders said on Monday.

In a press conference, governors from five provinces under the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) urged the followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to come home.

Related story: Aquino warns 'conspirators' in Sabah standoff

"The relatives and communities here at home are suffering as a result of his followers actions in Sabah," the ARMM governors said in a statement.

"Moreover, 600,000 Filipinos quietly and peacefully living and working in Sabah are now caught up in this conflict, which they are not a party to," they added.

Tawi-Tawi Gov. Badikul Sahali, Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan, Maguindanao Gov. Ismael Mangudadatu, Basilan Gov. Jum Akbar, and Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. issued the statement in a press conference in Greenhills San Juan Monday.

Acting ARMM governor Mujiv Hataman was also in the press briefing.

Seeing their Muslim brothers - Malaysians and Filipinos - die in Lahud Datu in Sabah has been hurting them, as the Filipino community monitor developments from North Borneo.

"We are calling on all parties to exert more effort to resolve the stand off in a peaceful and honorable manner. We appeal to Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to call on his followers to peaceably come home," they said.

"While we understand, respect, and honor the claims of the heirs of the sultanate of Sulu to Sabah, we urge Sultan Kiram to take into account that aggression and violence is not the way to advance this cause," they added.

The ARMM leaders also asked Kiram's clan to abide by the international rules and protocol in pursuing their claim.

"Let us settle the issue of Sabah in a peaceful and honorable way. We all want peace with dignity and justice and we can achieve it by working together in a peaceful manner," they said,

Meanwhile, a lawmaker from Mindanao has called on the House of Representatives to hold a special session to look into the country's claim of ownership over Sabah.

Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles also urged the Senate to conduct sessions, where lawmakers can come up with a legislation that may address the problem concerning Sabah.

"There is a deep-rooted cause of this conflict which should not be taken for granted," Nograles said.

"There is also a very good way to help solve this impasse through the good offices of the parliament," he added.

He added that House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile may even invite counterpart parliamentarians from Malaysia into the special session.

"We in Congress could open a way to make direct contact with our parliamentary counterparts in Malaysia and use our established goodwill to help find an honorable alternative without prejudice to mutual national interests," he said.

Related story: Sabah clashes may escalate with potential flash points 

Nograles, vice chair of House Committee on Human Rights, also called for a ceasefire in Sabah to prevent further "bloody confrontation and possible conflagration."

Nograles added that nobody could win under an atmosphere of confrontation that would only result to more bloodshed.

"We must first stop this unnecessary violence which is now getting worse. We have to talk this in a more conducive atmosphere. A ceasefire (should be) in order," Nograles emphasized.

At least 30 people have been killed in a series of firefight between Malaysian police and the followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.

Kiram, who has been staying in Taguig, said his followers went to Lahud Datu to insist theor calim of ownership over Sabah, which has remained dormant since the Martial Law.

His group continues to defy Malaysian demands for them to leave the disputed territory despite warnings of "drastic measures" from Malaysian government to address the threat.

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