For the Tausug people, they are fighting for their homeland, something which, politically, has already been conquered by other powers, such as the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. When the Sultan of Sulu relinquished his territory over to the United States of America by virtue of its complete conquest of the entire Philippine archiepelago, along with it the dissolution of the Sultanate as a "state". The Sultanate only exists in the minds and collective will of the Tausug.
Sabah should actually be part of Philippine territory because it is part of the territorial possessions of the Sultanate. The contentious part of this is the fact that the Philipines does not exercise territorial dominion over these territories. What we exercise is a claim, nothing more. We do not include Sabah as part of the political subdivisions of our civilian government. We do not exercise police powers over it. The citizens living in Sabah are of different citizenships, that of Malaysia. In reality, this claim exists only in our minds and our government never really bothered asserting this claim.
Who now is asserting this claim but the Sultanate of Sulu, which is neither a state nor any other entity except a sub-grouoing of an ethnic group. This Sultanate exists only in the minds of those who believe in it, because if the Sultanate declares ownership of a parcel of land existing beyond the political territory of the state where the Sultanate is, it is literally trying to exercise political dominion which it does ot have or is authorized to exercise.
What is happening right now is a stage where this Sultanate is trying to consolidae and shore its power base. What would prevent the Sultanate from declaring itself free from imperial Manila? Nothing. It has adequately propelled itself in the consciousness of a nation, has achieved higher moral standing before the eyes of the world and has even served as a beacon for the Tausug people to again dream of carving out a state of its own.
What would prevent now the Tausugs from calling for a secession, since the Republic canot even defend the rights of its citizens claiming ownership of a parcel of land which was historically part of their historical heritage?
It would not be long when this issue boils over and we see two governments trying to stifle the early life of a blossoming state, that is the Sultanate of Sulu.
What we are now seeing is the birthing of a new state, a baby which will be born out of the Tausug's desire for self-rule. Possibility of this happening in the future remains unknown.