MANILA – President Benigno Aquino III warned a sultan on Tuesday he would face the “full force of the law” unless he withdrew his gunmen from Malaysia, but the elderly ruler remained defiant.
Dozens of followers of the little-known Sultan of Sulu have been facing off with Malaysian security forces for two weeks, after they sailed from their remote southern Philippines island homes to stake a territorial claim.
With the incident causing increasing embarrassment to the Philippine government, Aquino made a nationally televised address Tuesday to try to pressure the sultan into bringing his gunmen back from Malaysia’s Sabah state.
“If you choose not to cooperate, the full force of the laws of the state will be used to achieve justice for all who have been put in harm’s way,” Aquino said.
“This is a situation that cannot persist. If you are truly the leader of your people, you should be one with us in ordering your followers to return home peacefully.”
Aquino, flanked by his interior and justice secretaries, also warned the sultan that he may have broken laws, including one banning citizens from inciting war. Anyone breaking that law could get a maximum prison term of 12 years.