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Kiram center of diplomatic flashpoint

Aurea Calica - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - From an obscure senatorial candidate of an unpopular president in 2007, Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III is now at the center of a potential diplomatic flashpoint after getting hundreds of his followers to assemble in Sabah to stake their claim on the territory.

His entry to the senatorial race in 2007 under the Team Unity of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had raised eyebrows due to his lack of resources to run a national campaign. And there had been speculations that his votes would only be used for padding or shaving votes to favor Arroyo’s candidates.

Kiram turned out to be a flexible man who easily learned to get along with people running the campaign, including the media.

On concerns over his physical ability to withstand the rigors of the campaign, he bragged that he could handle six wives – eliciting laughter from his audience. At that time though, he was already looking sickly.

Asked about Sabah at that time, he said Arroyo had asked him not to talk about it so as not to strain the country’s relations with Malaysia.

But he maintained he is a descendant of the royal family of the Sultanate of Sulu, which is claiming Sabah.

In the course of the 2007 campaign, Kiram had complained about being deprived of funds by the Arroyo administration.

Kiram was official candidate of pro-Arroyo Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas headed by then national security adviser Norberto Gonzales.

Even Gonzales at the time was said to be disappointed with the way Team Unity organizers were handling the campaign of Kiram, a neophyte in the electoral exercise.

Kiram’s wife Fatima Celia said the administration only gave them P5 million for the campaign, of which P3 million was spent for posters alone.

“Look at all the posters of my colleagues in Team Unity. And where is my poster? None,” Kiram said.       

ARROYO PARTIDO DEMOKRATIKO SOSYALISTA

EVEN GONZALES

FATIMA CELIA

KIRAM

NORBERTO GONZALES

PRESIDENT GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO

SABAH

SULTANATE OF SULU

SULU SULTAN JAMALUL KIRAM

TEAM UNITY

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