Self-proclaimed “sultans” of Sulu
The customary law of male primogeniture has been enforced in the Sultanate of Sulu since its founding many centuries ago.
When Sultan Jamalul Kiram II died in 1936 with no male heir, his younger brother and Raja Muda (Crown Prince) Muwallil Wasit II was elected and proclaimed by the Ruma Bichara (Royal State Council) as the next Sultan. Sadly, just a few months after his proclamation, he died. His eldest son and heir, Sultan Mohammed Esmail Kiram was set to replace his father and uncle. This was reported on the New York Times on 23 November 1936. Unfortunately, he was not able to reign properly due to factions supported by colonizers and the advent of World War II. Several years after the war in 1950 and upon the real independence of the Philippines from a colonial power, Sultan Mohammed Esmail Enang Kiram was finally recognized as the 33rd Sultan of Sulu. This was confirmed around the world in an article published by the New York Times on 20 November 1950.
The Philippine government recognized Sultan Esmail Kiram’s reign as recorded on public documents by the Official Gazette of the Philippines. First in 1957, under President Carlos P. Garcia, and then twice in 1962, under President Diosdado Macapagal. He also met with President Ferdinand Marcos on 15 July 1969. Sultan Esmail Kiram died in 1974 and his eldest son, Raja Muda Datu Mahakuttah Abdulla Kiram took his place.
The coronation of Sultan Mohammad Mahakuttah Abdulla Kiram on 24 May 1974 was recognized by President Marcos through the issuance of Memorandum Order No. 427 on 10 May 1974. At this same ceremony, his eldest son Datu Muedzul-Lail Tan Kiram was crowned as the Raja Muda of Sulu. The official meeting with President Marcos was published on the Bulletin Today newspaper on 26 May 1974. On 13 August 1974, Sultan Mahakuttah Kiram submitted to the Philippine government the official document stating the leadership structure of the Sultanate.
Sultan Mahakuttah Kiram died in 1986 during a major political crisis in the Philippines. As Raja Muda Muedzul-Lail Tan Kiram was not yet of age to be proclaimed Sultan, many of his older relatives and uncles took advantage of the chaotic situation. They threatened his life with some claiming the throne for their own benefits acting as unauthorized regents for the young monarch. The young Sultan withdrew from public life after mourning the death of his father to focus efforts on his Islamic studies. Decades ensued and over time, other usurpers who were not even part of the Kiram family, also used these circumstances for their nefarious objectives.
On the insistence of the Tausug people of Sulu and conquering all risks to life, an official coronation ceremony was held on 16 September 2012. At the royal site of Darul Jambangan (Palace of Flowers) in Maimbung, Sulu, His Majesty Muedzul-Lail Tan Kiram was proclaimed as The 35th Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo. This historic occasion was presided by Imam Jamiul Jasim, the holy Imam decreed by Sultan Mohammed Esmail Kiram in 1960. Witnesses to the coronation include the Hon. Hussin Amin, Mayor of Jolo, Sulu, as a representative of the Philippine local government. This significant event was chronicled locally and internationally. It was published in the Philippines on the Daily Zamboanga Times on 26 September 2012 and was also promulgated in the Republic of Serbia on the October 2012 issue of Blic Magazine.
Even before his coronation in 2012, royals from around the world already recognized Sultan Muedzul-Lail Tan Kiram as the rightful head of the Royal House of Sulu. These include recognition from H.M. King Kigeli V of Rwanda, H.I.H. Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie of Ethiopia and H.R.H. Prince David Bagrationi Mukhrani of Georgia.
In recent years, other royal families have also acknowledged Sultan Muedzul-Lail Tan Kiram in various correspondences. Among them are H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh, H.R.H. The Grand Duke of Luxembourg and H.S.H. The Sovereign Prince of Monaco.
In 2013, the Philippine government released a genealogy of the Sultans of Sulu from Sultan Jamalul Kiram II in 1936. The document clearly states that Datu Muedzul-Lail Tan Kiram is the Raja Muda of Sultan Mohammad Mahakuttah Kiram.
On his official letter dated 19 March 2018, the Hon. Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, former Senate President of the Philippines, recognized His Majesty Sultan Muedzul-Lail Tan Kiram as the Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo.
The public is warned against the erroneous narratives of self-proclaimed fake sultans.