(First published in The Philippine Star issue of May 2, 2013)

SECRET FUND: While Malaysia keeps offering 5,300 ringgits (P72,000) a year to continue renting Sabah from the Sulu sultanate, that disputed corner of North Borneo earns $200 billion annually.


This was disclosed yesterday by Pastor “Boy” Saycon, an adviser of the Sulu Sultanate which is pressing the full recovery of their patrimony taken over by the United Kingdom and lumped into the Malaysian federation in 1963.


The sultanate terminated the lease in 1989, after Malaysia unilaterally modified the mode of payment, shifting from Mexican dollars to Malaysian ringgits.


Saycon said a big slice of the revenues of Sabah goes into a secret fund, now estimated at $3 billion, devoted to quelling unrest in the territory and fending off the Philippine claim.


Are special operations financed and selected key individuals in the Philippines being paid from this slush fund? Saycon just smiled, declining to answer the question.


Does the sultanate continue to receive rentals after it had revoked the contract? The sultanate still accepts the Malaysian checks, he said, but does not encash them. The checks are kept as evidence, not as payment.


The Malaysian embassy issues the checks “pay to” the sultanate as represented by nine heirs recognized in 1939 by the High Court of North Borneo presided over by Justice Mackaskie.


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‘PADJAK’ CONTRACT: Official documents on the subject continue to be unearthed. One such paper, uploaded in the Official Gazette, is a letter dated Feb. 27, 1947, sent by Francis B. Harrison to then Vice President and Foreign Secretary Affairs Elpidio Quirino.


Harrison was a former Governor-General when the Philippines was still a United States colony. He served as special foreign affairs adviser to then President Manuel A. Roxas. Part of his letter said (edited for brevity):


“In a memorandum dated Sept. 26, 1946, I advised the Philippine government to protest to the government of Great Britain against the latter’s announcement of July 16, 1946, that the State of North Borneo had become a Crown Colony of the British Monarchy. This annexation took place just 12 days after the inauguration of the Republic of the Philippines, and was done in derogation of the rights of the Sultanate of Sulu.


“Further important evidence has come from the Philippine Embassy in Washington, where Mr. Eduardo Quintero, searching in the National Archives, found a photostatic copy of the document dated Jan. 22, 1878, upon which the British government bases their claim to all the lands tributary to the Sultanate of Sulu.


“This was obtained in 1940 by the US Department of State from the British government, and is hereto annexed. The second copy had been held by the Sultan of Sulu, and, as is alleged, was stolen from him during a visit he made to Singapore many years ago. This story is to be found in the article in the Chicago Daily Tribuneof Oct. 14, 1945, written by Mr. Aleko Lilius.


“The copy, furnished by the British government, has been translated at my request by Mr. Harold Conklin, assistant to Prof. H. Otley Beyer in the University of the Philippines. Mr. Conklin is a qualified scholar in the Malay language and in the Arabic script in which language and writing this document was written. This translation follows:


“Grant by the Sultan of Sulu of a permanent lease covering his lands and territories on the Island of Borneo:


“We, Sri Paduka Maulana Al Sultan Mohammed Jamalul Alam, Son of Sri Paduka Marhum Al Sultan Muhammed Pulalun, Sultan of Sulu and all dependencies thereof, on behalf of ourselves and for our heirs and successors, and with the expressed desire of all Datus in common agreement, do hereby desire to lease (padjak), of our own free will and satisfaction, to Gustavus Baron de Overbeck of Hongkong, and to Alfred Dent, Esquire, of London, who act as representatives of a British Company, together with their heirs, associates, successors, and assigns, forever and until the end of time, all rights and powers which we possess over all territories and lands tributary to us on the mainland of the Island of Borneo, commencing from the Pandassan River on the west, and thence along the whole east coast as far as the Sibuku River on the south, and including all territories, on the Pandassan River and in the coastal area, known as Paitan, Sugut, Banggai, Labuk, Sandakan, China-batangan, Mumiang, and all other territories and coastal lands to the south, bordering on Darvel Bay, and as far as the Sibuku River, together with all the islands which lie within nine miles from the coast.


“In consideration of this (territorial) lease, the honorable Gustavus Baron de Overbeck and Alfred Dent, Esquire, promise to pay to His Highness Maulana Sultan Mohammed Jamalul Alam, and to his heirs and successors, the sum of five thousand dollars annually, to be paid each and every year.


“The above-mentioned territories are from today truly leased to Mr. Gustavus Baron de Overbeck and to Alfred Dent, Esquire, together with their heirs, their associates (company), and their successors or assigns, for as long as they choose or desire to use them; but the rights and powers hereby leased shall not be transferred to another nation, or a company of other nationality, without the consent of Their Majesties’ Government.


“Should there be any dispute, or reviving of old grievances of any kind, between us, and our heirs and successors, with Mr. Gustavus Baron de Overbeck or his Company, then the matter will be brought for consideration or judgment to their Majesties’ Consul-General in Brunei.


x x x


“This treaty is written in Sulu, at the Palace of the Sultan Mohammed Jamalul Alam, on the 19th day of the month of Muharam, A.H. 1295; that is on the 22nd day of the month of January, year 1878.”


“(Seal of the Sultan Jamalul Alam)


“Witness to seal and signature: (Sgd.) W.H. Treacher, H. B. M. Acting Consul General in Borneo”


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