DFA to probe abuses against Pinoys in Sabah
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - The Philippine government on Sunday, March 10 officially condemned the alleged "inhumane treatment" given by Malaysian security forces to Filipinos in Sabah who are not involved in the standoff by supporters of the Sulu sultan.
In a radio interview, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte confirmed that Malacañang has received reports of abuses against Filipinos -- especially those of Tausug origin -- in Sabah.
“We have been receiving these reports from our countrymen who have gone back to different places in the south -- some have fled to Tawi-Tawi, others Zamboanga,” she said.
“This kind of treatment on Filipino citizens is unacceptable, which is why the [Department of Foreign Affairs] will be contacting their Malaysian counterparts to [discuss the problem].”
A Filipina who had to leave Sandakan, Sabah confirmed to Rappler on Friday that Tausugs are being targeted.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that Filipinos are being treated “like animals."
The Tausugs are the dominant ethnic group of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, where the followers of self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III came from.
The DFA on Sunday said it views the reports of human rights violations with "serious concern" and urged the Malaysian government to clarify the allegations.
"The allegations are alarming and should be properly and immediately addressed by concerned authorities," a statement said.
About 3 weeks after the department sent a Philippine Navy ship to Lahad Datu to provide consular and humanitarian assistance to Filipinos affected by the standoff, the vessel is still waiting at the maritime border for clearance to proceed to several villages outside of the exclusion area established by local security forces.
"We reiterate our call on the Malaysian government to give humane treatment to the Filipinos under their custody," the DFA stressed.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday urged all parties to "facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance and act in full respect of international human rights norms and standards" and said he is worried about "the impact this situation may have on the civilian population, including migrants in the region."
Authorities in the southern Philippines are bracing for a massive deportation of Filipinos from Sabah, where tens of thousands of illegal Filipino immigrants work in palm oil plantations.
Malaysia denies abuses
After the Philippine government protested about the alleged harsh treatment of its citizens, Malaysian authorities strongly denied the claims.
"I strongly deny that. They (Filipino media) can say anything but our focus of operation is only in the 2 areas. There is nothing going on in Sandakan, so what is there left for me to clarify?," Sabah police chief Hamza Taib said on Sunday, according to a tweet by state news agency Bernama.
Valte recalled that President Benigno Aquino III had personally asked Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak earlier to ensure that the estimated 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah would not be persecuted despite the crisis.
A total of 53 militants and 8 police officers have been shot dead since a group of armed Filipinos arrived in the region last month to resurrect long-dormant land claims of a self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.
So far 85 people have been arrested for possible links to the intruders in Sabah, according to Malaysian officials.
Kiram offered a unilateral ceasefire on Thursday, but his proposal was rejected by Malaysia, which insists on unconditional surrender. - with reports from Carlos Santamaria/Rappler.com