Filtered By: News
(Updated 5:00 p.m. March 21) Two followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III face death penalties while life terms await six others after they were charged before a makeshift Magistrate's Court in Sabah on Wednesday afternoon. Malaysia's The Star Online reported that the eight followers were charged for violating two articles in Malaysia's Penal Code: Section 122 (waging war against the King) and Section 130 KA (terrorism).
PNoy vows legal assistance to Pinoys charged with terrorism in Sabah President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday assured the eight Filipinos chraged with terrorism in Sabah that the Philippines will extend all the necessary legal assistance they may need, even if the government disagrees with their cause. “Automatic na bibigyan natin ng legal assistance kung sinumang kababayan natin ang humaharap sa pagsasakdal, regardless kung naniniwala tayo doon sa pinaglalaban nila o hindi,” Aquino said in a chance interview with reporters in Naga City, following the groundbreaking of the Jesse M. Robredo Monument and briefing on the proposed Jesse M. Robredo Museum there. Aquino added that the Philippine government has an obligation the followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III since they are still Filipino citizens, despite their actions. “May obligasyon tayo na pangalagaan ‘yung kanilang mga karapatan, at nakatutok na diyan, siyempre, [ang] Foreign Affairs [Department] at katulong ang DOJ (Department of Justice,)” the President said. Earlier, Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said the administration continues to verify the actual charges filed against the eight Pinoys, saying the government will not rely on media reports from Malaysia. “Inaalam din [natin] ang mga nilalaman ng mga kasong inisampa laban sa kanila, sapagka’t hindi sapat na ibatay ang ating posisyon at pagkilos sa mga inilathala o ipinahayag sa balita,” he said. Information about the crisis in Sabah has been sparse, with Philippine media reportedly being prevented from getting near the action as the standoff between Malaysian security forces and Kiram’s followers turned violent. Some 200 individuals crossed over to Sabah early February to reclaim the area as their ancestral territory. Kiram has repeatedly said his followers will not leave Sabah despite being cornered by security forces. The Philippine government has yet to confirm the official number of fatalities in the conflict, with figures running from 50 to more than 60. — Patricia Denise Chiu/RSJ, GMA News Read moreWhile Section 130 KA (terrorism) calls for a jail term of up to 30 years. On the other hand, Section 121 (waging war against the King) can fetch the death penalty. Malaysia's The Star Online named Atik Hussein bin Abu Bakar and Basad Manuel as those who are facing death penalty. Those who face life imprisonment are Holland Kalbi, Lin bin Mad Salleh, Habil Suhaili and Timhar Hadir. Kadir Uyung and Lating Tiong may also face life imprisonment allegedly for harboring members of the Kiram group. The eight are the first to face charges from the 108 detained Filipinos in Sabah. DFA seeks access to eight Filipinos Meanwhile, the Philippine government has formally sought Malaysia’s approval to gain access to the eight detained Filipinos charged with terror crimes for taking part in an armed siege in Malaysian-controlled Sabah that has killed dozens over the past month. Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said the request was already conveyed by Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malaya to the Malaysian Foreign Ministry. “What we are trying to do now is to work on an access to our people so that we would be able to confirm exactly this news reports regarding the eight being charged by Malaysian authorities for crimes on terrorism,” Hernandez told a press briefing. Malaysia has repeatedly denied Manila’s request to see and provide consular assistance to all detained Filipinos believed to be followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III citing “security reasons,” Hernandez said. “There was a response from the Malaysian side to the request for access and the response was because of security reasons they could not allow visitations for the time being,” he said. Hernandez, however, said the Department of Foreign Affairs would continue to insist on its right to see the Filipinos, saying it is part of its mandate to provide aid to all distressed Philippine nationals. “With the access we will be able to find out the exact and appropriate assistance that we could provide to these people,” he said. Malaysia has not notified the Philippine government on the filing of the charges against the Filipinos and on the official number of those who were arrested since close to 200 Kiram followers landed by boat in the coastal town of Lahad Datu on February 9 to reclaim their historical right on Sabah, Hernandez said. “Under normal circumstances and based on Vienna Convention on Consular Relations our embassy officials should have access to our people under their custody,” Hernandez said. Death toll rises to 63 Meanwhile, the death toll in the Sabah skirmishes reached 63 after a commando was killed Wednesday in the continuing mop-up operations in Kampung Tanjung Batu. Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar refused to divulge the evidence against the detainees, adding that it is enough to prove their guilt, said GMA News' Cedric Castillo on “Balitanghali.” Kiram followers were dressed in purple lock-up uniforms and charged at the police headquarters in Lahad Datu before Sessions Court judge Amelati Parnell sitting as Magistrate. Deputy public prosecutor Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar led the prosecuting team. While the charges were read out in Bahasa Malaysia, interpreters translated them into Suluk and Bajau. The case has been transferred to the Tawau High Court. Reports being verified In Manila, meanwhile, the Philippine DFA on Thursday said it has instructed the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to verify the report and get more information about the issue on hand. In a phone interview with GMA News Online, DFA Spokesman Raul Hernandez said, “We are at a stage of confirming the report and we are studying the details so that we could see how we could best help the Filipinos involved.” On the other hand, a report on state-run Bernama news agency described the eight as "males aged between 17 and 66." No plea was recorded after the eight were charged. After the hearing ended at 1:45 p.m., the eight were seen boarding four trucks under tight police security, and were to be taken to Tawau. Meanwhile, Malaysia has not yet permitted the Philippine humanitarian team to enter the area where Filipino evacuees and detainees have been held. However, Malaysian Armed Forces chief Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin said in the "Balitanghali" report the team is welcome so long as it courses through what he called “legal channels.” Legal assistance The eight who were charged may get some legal assistance from a group of Sabah-based lawyers. The Sabah Law Association said it is ready to make sure the eight are accorded due process, according to a report Thursday on Malaysia's The Star Online. "With the mutual cooperation of all relevant parties, SLA is confident that all persons shall be accorded the due and just process of the law," The Star Online quoted a statement of the group. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been under pressure to take a tough stand after security forces took no action against the intruders for two weeks. Najib must call a national election in weeks and his party, in power since independence from Britain in 1957, faces a tough contest. Ties with the Philippines, periodically strained by security and migration issues, could be further soured by the case. The group of about 200 engaged in weeks of negotiations over their claim to the region before Malaysian forces mounted an all-out assault in oil palm-fringed coastal areas. Militants who escaped the onslaught went into hiding, surfacing occasionally for gun battles with Malaysian forces. The Filipino group is demanding recognition and increased payment from Malaysia for their claim to Sabah, part of Borneo leased by the Sultanate of Sulu to British colonialists in the 19th century. Members say they are a part of the Sultan of Sulu's army and offered a unilateral ceasefire rejected by Najib. — with reports from Reuters and Andrei Medina/Michaela del Callar/DVM/LBG/VVP, GMA News