The last time that a Muslim was represented in the Senate was in the Ninth Congress with Santanina Rasul managing to win a reelection. Since then, there has been no lawmaker representing Muslim Filipinos.

After failing to take in the “daughter of Tamano” into the TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More) Unity ticket, the administration finally settled for Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, who heads what is officially called the Royal Hashemite Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo/Sabah.
Kiram is the twelfth candidate of the administration's unity ticket, and his intention to run and inclusion in the ticket were revealed only when he filed his certificate of candidacy.
He lit up the room as every waiter and waitress left what they were doing to look at the man they call the “Sultan of Sulu.” Dressed in a black jacket over a collared yellow shirt and with a traditional purple turban around his head, the sultan walked meekly, commanding respect while exuding an air of experience and humility.

The Sultan, running under the administration’s senatorial ticket Team Unity, is no less than Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of Sulu.

A soft-spoken man with a southern drawl, he quickly warmed up to the interview and occasionally laughed heartily whenever he needed time to think or just really found something to be funny.

In a pre-interview disclaimer, he already mentioned that he was not a politician – “not the sort of trapo (traditional politician) you will find in both tickets” – so he is not as practiced in speech as the other candidates.

He assured the interviewer, however, that election is not a matter of speech or eloquence but a matter of principle and platform, adding that compared to other “senatoriables,” he has a moral ascendancy – a guarantee that he will not put his family’s name and title in shame.
In a recent article, Presidential Political Adviser Gabriel Claudio was quoted saying that Kiram was chosen “because of his influence in the Philippine Islamic community and to give Muslims better representation in Congress.”
“This administration believes that an alliance with our Muslim brothers will result in the unity of our country,” presidential adviser on political affairs Gabriel Claudio said in an interview.
“We believe that he will fit the position to give ample and sufficient voice to our brother and sister Muslims all over the country.”
Being a full-time Sultan, Kiram had never run for a political office before.
The 68-year-old lawyer was the eldest son of the late Sultan Punjungan Kiram and Sharif Usna Dalus Strattan, born in July 16, 1983 in Maimbung, Sulu.
His parents are both royalties of Sulu, with direct lineage from the first Sultan of Sulu, Sultan Shariful Hashim from the Bano-Hashimite tribe, the direct descendants of Prophet Mohammad (SWA).
Kiram III earned his Bachelor of Law at the Manuel Luis Quezon University in 1964 after finish undergraduate studies at the Notre Dame of Julo in 1985. He was proclaimed in 1984 as 33rd Sultan of Sulu and was crowned on June 15, 1986 in Jolo, Sulu.
Sultan Kiram is presently married to Dayang Hadja Fatima Celia Kiram.
His accomplishments include forging the century – old relationships between Sulu and China during the royal visit in Dezhou, Shandong Province, PR China in September 1999 with 87 – man entourage. The visit concluded with the signing of the agreement between Hebei Province and the Sulu Sultanate on agricultural technology exchange.

He also forged bilateral relationship between the Don Sasagawa Foundation of Japan and the Sultan Jamalul Ahlam Foundation. Sultan Jamalul Ahlam was the recipient of various hospital equipments from Japan which were in turn donated to the Sulu Provincial Hospital in 1992.

He also clamed responsibility for the release of the American and the German nationals from the captivity of the lost command of the MNLF in 1984.

Sultan Kiram was given a Citation Award for the release of the Japanese hostage in Sulu in 1986 by Pres. Fidel V. Ramos, then Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He is also a Senior Fellow in the Royal Institute of Higher Education of Singapore
and in several other royal institutes.

His work experiences include, among others, consultancies to the present and past administrations, executive positions in Islamic organizations and councils, regency in a school board, and radio station management.

In 2005, he was appointed Consultant to President Macapagal Arroyo as well as Presidential Adviser on Muslim Royalties Concern. He was also a member of the Joint Legislative and Executive Advisory Council on Sabah Claim, from 2000-2004.

Representing the olympic prowess and interests of the Muslim community, he served as Executive Council Member-Philippine Olympic Committee from 1996-2000. He remains the Chair & President-Sulu-Sabah Foundation from 1993, and is the Supreme Regent of the Philippine Islamic Council from 1986 to present.

He established livelihood programs in Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Palawan through the Sulu-Marine and Seven Seas Corporations when he seved as Chair and President of both corporations in the early 1990’s. He has also chaired the Sultan Jamalul Ahlam Foundation ever since 1979.

He served as Regent at Mindanao State University from 1974 to 1976, Project Officer of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Jolo from 1972 to 1974 and Vice President & Corporate Treasurer of Greenfields Golf & Country Club from 1974-1977 .

The sultan also held various media positions, such as Station Manager of DXSU in Jolo from 1969 to 1971 and as Program Director of DXSM in Jolo from 1963 to1969.

To top it all off, Sultan Kiram said that his extensive experience in leadership, Islamic relations, negotiations and law has earned him the right to be a candidate to the House of Senate. He added that the leadership experience and achievements he got from being a sultan are testaments to his leadership abilities.

The Sultan exercises ecclesiastical powers and political authority. The Sultanate Hierarchy has three branches of government, resembling the modern democratic systems of government. It is comprised of Executive, Legislative and Judiciary branches, which operate in a coordinated system in the government of the Kingdom.
Kiram’s wife, Fatima Selya, said her husband was the “legal and real” sultan of Sulu and of the contested island Sabah, which is now being governed by Malaysia.
In his 1939 ruling, Chief Justice C.F.C. Makaskie of the High Court of North Borneo recognized nine rulers of Sulu, including Kiram’s father, Datu Punjungan.
In 2002 Malacañang feted some heirs to the Sulu throne, and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo acknowledged Kiram III as the Sultan of Sulu.
Among those questioning Jamalul’s legality as sultan are the heirs of the late Princess Denchurain Kiram, who in 1993 was the oldest of the surviving nine heirs and acknowledged three claimants: Datu Muedzul-Lail, Datu Terona al-Shariff Kiram, and Sultan Aguimoddin Abidin.
In 2004 Aguimoddin Abidin went to the Department of Foreign Affairs to reiterate his position as the legal sultan of Sulu and claimant to Sabah, for which the Malaysian government still pays about $1,500 in annual rental.
According to Kiram, Sabah, originally a part of the Sultanate of Sulu until it was leased to a British trader in 1878, accounts for almost 50 percent of Malaysia’s gross domestic product.
Malaysia expropriated the island in 1963, when the British colonial government turned it over to the newly created Federation of Malaysia—now simply Malaysia—without notifying the Sultanate of Sulu or the Philippine government.
Even before he decided to run for Senator, Kiram III has already been helping the government recover Sabah.
“We are only getting 5,300 ringgit (around $1,500) a year for the use of Sabah from the Malaysian government and until now the Malaysians are negotiating with us," he said.

Kiram said that he would do what he can to help get Sabah back from the Malaysians and would like to do so through peaceful means, not wanting to tarnish the relationship of the Philippines with Malaysia.
He said that 50 percent of Malaysia’s income comes from Sabah, and that that is a lot. He believes if ever we reclaim Sabah, the added profit from the disputed land will give a boost to the Philippine economy, since he believes that its income and resources are rightfully ours.
But Fatima said the Sabah issue should not be tied up with her husband’s candidacy because Jamalul’s platform was simply to improve the Muslims’ economic condition.
True enough, Sultan Kiram called on the public “to build a strong nation” founded on “Five Pillars”:
• A strong, industrialized national economy
• A strong commitment to universally accepted human values, principles of social justice, and principles of sustainable development
• A strong justice and democratic government
• A strong armed forces for national security;
• A strong commitment to the principles of cooperation and reciprocity, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-ag¬gression and nonin¬terference in internal affairs, and peaceful coexistence in the relationship between and among nations.
Kiram also called for a comprehensive Mindanao development saying there is a need to engage the Muslims continuously for lasting peace in Mindanao.
He believes that the unresolved conflicts in the Mindanao has a great impact in our national economy, explaining that few capitalists invest in Mindanao because of the sporadic battles between the army and the moro rebels.
He said that Mindanao has some of the most productive agrarian lands in the country, given her strategic position where monsoons and floods cannot damage the crops unlike in the Luzon and the Visayas. Mindanao, he said, has a lot of potential and that potential should not be ignored.
“It is sad that Mindanao remains undeveloped; few businessmen invest in Mindanao because of its terrible peace and order situation that is why if ever I win, I will prioritize the making of laws which will further the peace talks and negotiations in Mindanao,” he said.
Moving on to moral issues haunting both Christian and non-Christian Filipinos, the Sultan gave a quick “No,” when asked if he would ever approve of the legalization of divorce in our country. He explained, that it was very much against the belief of Muslims.
He also believes that family planning should be left for couples to decide and that institutions, government and otherwise, should respect those decisions. However, he shook his head violently, saying “no, no, no” when asked what he thought of abortion.
“Murder is never right,” the Sultan said.
Shifting to electoral morality, the senatoriable under the Team Unity Ticket of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo commented that the “Hello, Garci” scandal should be forgotten because for him, it was already resolved.
He said that he firmly believes that PGMA won in the last presidential elections and that there was no cheating which took place.
In another interview, Anina Rasul-Bernardo of the United Opposition (UNO) lamented that the sultan, who she said is good man, is being used by the administration.
"To be realistic, his chance of winning is very low for the following reasons. He is unknown to the majority, he had not planned to run and, therefore, has no network. He has no time to prepare. The others started a long time ago," the PCID head said.
She added that she fears that the sultan is being used.
In the same article, SPDA Administrator Ampatuan was quoted saying that there are other qualified Muslims who can fully articulate issues in the Senate, such as Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong, Deputy Speaker Salapuddin, among others.
Sultan Kiram said that if he were to decide, he wouldn’t allow foreign soldiers lurking in our territories because it fosters more tension among the soldiers and fellow Filipinos.
He said that he does not approve of the current status and implementation of the Visiting Forces Agreement.
He said that a huge amount of money goes to our soldiers training, including the support funds given by the United States, while the less priority is given to education at the rural and even urban areas.
He said that he wants to improve the Education situation in Mindanao especially in the outskirts because he sees the need for strong and formative primary and secondary education.
Commenting on the extra-judicial killings and the recent Melo Commission report linking a small group in the military to the murders, he admitted that he was not too familiar with the facts but he certainly knew that too many had been killed.
He said that the government should go after the “punishers.” He said that non-action in this sensitive issue will nurture the killings, and that it would be very easy for the real killers to pinpoint several already-tainted groups.
“There should always be respect for life and property, which leads to respect for development,” he said.
The Sultan said he is firm in his stand that the Charter Change should carry on, and should be done so through a Constituent Assembly. This is reflective of the administration’s stand on the amendment of the Constitution.
The Cha-Cha, he said, would also be beneficial to Mindanao which can finally enjoy the “fruits of its labors” and the “blessings of its lands” in the parliamentary system.
He also expressed his desire for the royalties to be recognized and be given the due respect and power they used to have, and that this can be done if Cha-Cha pushes through.
Kiram III’s family, however, is divided in its decision to support or criticize the Sultan’s decision to run for senator.
A recent article at the Sun Star Dumaguete said that two heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo believed that Sultan Jamalul Kiram III should have not ran for senator being one of the heirs of the sultanate.
Author Bong Garcia said that Paramount Sultan Ibrahim Badjin, cousin of Kira III, said their family was not happy over the decision of Kiram to run for senator because the decision of Kiram has put down the morale of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.
He added that Kiram's decision has subjected the sultanate to the authority of another established sovereign entity, which should not happen.
On the other hand, Sultan Sharif Ajibun Mohammad Pulalun said that he leaves it to the people to decide the fate of Kiram's candidacy.
"If the people see that he is fit for the position of senator of the Philippines, it is up to them to decide," Pulalun said.
However, Pulalun is inclined to support Kiram's candidacy, saying, "I will support a candidate who I believe can help improve the condition of the country."
Sultan Kiram, on the other hand, said that it was obvious that he clearly knows his purpose for running – to do what he can do to improve the peace and order situation, economy and prestige of Mindanao, adding that whatever succeed he gets from these will eventually translate and affect the national development.
“I am not great in speech,” the Sultan said, with one hand touching his chest and the other giving a slight wave to a waiter passing by.
“But I know exactly why I am running, and exactly why Filipinos should vote for me.”—Jemima Garcia

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