Malaysia has finally granted the Philippines’ repeated requests for consular access to eight Filipinos who have been charged with terrorism-related offenses in Sabah and all those who have been detained for investigations under Malaysian laws.
But the Sultanate of Sulu said those charged with terrorism and waging a war against the Malaysian king are actually Malaysian citizens.
Abraham J. Idjirani, spokesman of the sultanate, said this information was given by members of the “raayat” (constituency) of the Sulu Sultanate in Sabah.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez said the Malaysian Foreign Ministry sent a note verbale on March 20 to inform the Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur about the granting of consular access in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
“The Ministry will advise our embassy of the procedures of the access in due course,” Hernandez disclosed in a press briefing at the DFA headquarters in Pasay City yesterday afternoon.
The eight Filipinos believed to be followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III were charged Wednesday afternoon before a Magistrate’s Court in Sabah for violating two articles in Malaysia’s Penal Code: Section 122 (waging war against the King); and Section 130 KA (terrorism).
While Section 130 KA (terrorism) calls for a jail term of up to 30 years, Section 121 (waging war against the King) can fetch the death penalty
As of Wednesday, 62 Filipinos have been killed in the crisis, 107 have been detained, and another 243 were arrested while hundreds of Philippine nationals living and working in Sabah were displaced.
The Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur’s humanitarian/consular team already distributed relief goods, provided passports and issued travel documents (TDs) to Filipinos who have expressed their wish to return to the Philippines and to those who prefer to stay there amid tensions between followers of the Sultanate of Sulu and Malaysian authorities.
“Despite the challenges, our humanitarian/consular teams are deeply committed to providing assistance to our nationals in Sabah,” Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Ed Malaya said in a statement.
Led by Renato Villa, the embassy team turned over on Thursday food packs and relief goods for Filipinos at the four evacuation centers located at the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) Salahat area.
The relief goods were received by Alia Asfa, a community leader at the Embara Budi evacuation center whose mother is Filipina-born, and evacuation center officials.
According to the embassy, there are around 1,500 evacuees in four FELDA evacuation centers.
The packages contain rice, canned sardines, noodles and sugar and hygiene kits.
In Tawau, the humanitarian/consular team assigned there processed 348 TDs for Filipinos who expressed their desire to be repatriated, and are making arrangements for their repatriation to the Philippines.
Earlier, two officials from the Embassy, including Vice Consul Francis Herrera, left Kuala Lumpur on March 18, and joined the embassy’s humanitarian/consular team in Lahad Datu.
Meanwhile, Idjirani said that of the sultanate 235 Royal Security Force (RSF) men under Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, 18 died, four wounded, and 10 arrested on March 1; four killed in Malaysia’s massive offensive starting on March 5; and another two sacrificed their lives to shield the rajah muda from Malaysian gunfire; and 36 being detained at the Philippine Naval Station in Tawi-Tawi.
This leaves the rajah muda with only 161 followers, he said.
Idjirani said the 10 killed on March 1 were Ibrahim Suhudah, Ling Mad Salli, Holan Kalbi, Junaidi Harain, Abdulkader Jumaadil, Hawadi Jumaadil, Tar Undang, Sangkahan Ajan, and Datu and Mrs. Maharajah Sabandal.