SAN MIGUEL, Bulacan -- Vice President Jejomar Binay and senatorial candidates of the United Nationalist Alliance cautioned President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday against harping on an alleged “conspiracy” behind the Sabah sojourn by followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.
"Inaaral pa iyan ng DOJ, kaya ang sabi ko sa inyo, ano ba kaya ang criminal offense? 'Pag walang criminal offense eh, nasaan ang (The DOJ is still studying it, so I am telling you, what is the criminal offense?
If there is no criminal offense, then where is) conspiracy? Of course, the basis of conspiracy is they conspired with each other to commit a criminal offense, so sa tingin natin, ano ba ang kasalanan (in our opinion, what is the crime)?" Binay said in an interview at the sidelines of an UNA rally here.
"How can you charge somebody of conspiring when you don't know that there's an offense committed?" he added.
He said the DOJ should be left to do its job investigating what led the sultan’s followers to go to Sabah, where they have since engaged Malaysian security forces in battle.
"Elementary rule ‘yan ... ang paglabag sa batas ng Pilipinas ay nilabag dito sa Pilipinas so hindi ko alam kung ano ‘yung magiging offense (That’s an elementary rule … violations of Philippine law are committed in the Philippines so I don’t know what the offense is)," he said.
Aquino has hinted that individuals, including former officials of the Arroyo administration, could be behind Kiram's move, although he admitted lacking enough evidence to name names.
"It's just an excuse for bungling the Sabah issue. That's just an afterthought when things went out of hand and they can't control them anymore," UNA senatorial candidate Ma. Milagros Magsaysay said.
Former senator Ernesto Maceda, also an UNA bet, said he did not find the Palace line credible "especially when he (Aquino) started talking about GMA," referring to former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
"How can GMA be involved? That is his propaganda talking," Maceda added.
Magsaysay also chided Aquino and his spokespersons for issuing statements that were further fuelling the Kirams’ anger.
"He should shut up and let coolheaded and levelheaded people to do the talking for them because it's not doing them any good," Magsaysay said.
Aquino, she added, should stop being "bullheaded."
"They should not let their ego get in the way, it's time to think about what they're going to say," she said.
Magsaysay said the fighting in Sabah between Kiram's men and Malaysian security forces was a consequence of government’s inaction on the sultan’s request to be consulted on the peace process in Mindanao that was made in a letter to Aquino two years ago but which the President admitted had been lost “in the bureaucratic maze.”