No amount of money can buy Sabah.
This was stressed yesterday by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III as he recalled that it was his father, the late Sultan Punjungan Kiram, who warned his 13 children against selling Sabah.
"Mga anak, bang kamo in makagantih sin kapatut ko ayaw niyu dagangan in Sabah, pasal kahakan kamu sin raayat."
Almarim C. Tillah, policy adviser to the sultan's younger brother, provided a translation for the Tausug statement.
"Children, if you already inherit Sabah, please do not sell it - if you do sell it you will be cursed by the constituents," Tillah's translation said.
Sultan Kiram III's siblings are Sultan Jamalul, Bantilan Sultan Esmail, Rajah Muda Agbimuddin, Datu Phugdal, Datu Ibrahim (deceased), Datu Aliuddin (deceased), Datu Bararuddin III, Datu Alianapia, Dayang-Dayang Sitti Khrisna, Dayang-Dayang Putri Sheha, Datu Mohammad Ali (deceased), Datu Abdilnasser, and Datu Shaiffudin.
Sultan Kiram III, the eldest of Punjungan's children, said that when their father was still alive, he repeatedly reminded them not to sell the territory.
The children of Punjungan have repeatedly said Sabah is their "ancestral homeland," the reason rajah muda brought his followers "to live there peacefully."
It was an "incursion," said Malaysian authorities as they maintained Sabah - which they got from the British in 1963 - belongs to the Muslim country.
The oil-rich island, just hours by boat from Simunul, Tawi-Tawi, is presently at the center and the scene of the battle between the forces of the sultanate and Malaysia's air power, artillery, and ground troops.
Malaysia unleashed its combined military (five battalions) and police forces on March 5 against the rajah muda and his Royal Security Forces (RSF), originally 235 men.
In one recent consultation in Zamboanga City, Bantilan Esmail repeated to the sultanate's "raayat" (constituents) his father's unforgettable warning.
Esmail Kiram told those present that the real issue in the standoff "is the recovery of Sabah."
Tillah said that the Sulu sultanate's heir stressed on Oct. 15, 2012, that Sabah is not just for the Kirams or the sultanate.
"Sabah is the patrimony of the Filipino nation," he quoted Esmail Kiram as saying in a symposium on the "Sabah Claim" arranged by Tillah at the University of Makati's Pimentel Institute of Local Governance in the presence of then Sen. Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel.
Abraham Idjirani, spokesman of the sultanate, said Sunday that during meetings of the Punjungan siblings, they often bring out their hardships in life.
But they have not raised the issue of selling the territory, he said.
Idjirani said that at one time, Malaysia offered US$3.2 billion to the Punjungan children to buy Sabah.
It did not happen because no one agreed, he said.
Malaysia has been paying 5,300 ringgit (about 70,000 pesos) to the sultanate's heirs for Sabah which reportedly earns about US$200 billion a year.
Yesterday, Kiram III reaffirmed his readiness to meet with President Benigno S. Aquino III to resolve the standoff. He said that while he's open to negotiations, no has tried to do so.
As this developed, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) admitted that it does not have the "capability to verify" information from Sabah, including reports about the unclaimed bodies of followers of the Sultanate of Sulu.
"We are not allowed to go to Lahad Datu," DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters. "(Therefore) we haven't seen dead bodies."
Meanwhile, all six evacuation centers in Tawi-Tawi that have been prepared by the Provincial Crisis Management Council (PCMC) for the returning Filipinos from Malaysia are now "empty."
PCMC Chairman Gov. Sadikul Sahali said the Mahardika Institute of Technology (MIT), Tubig Tanah Elementary School, Tawi-Tawi School of Arts and Trade, Housing Project Elementary School, Panglima Annao Elementary School, and Pahut Elementary School are now empty of refugees. (With reports from Roy C. Mabasa and Nonoy E. Lacson)