PH asks Malaysia for proof 5 ISIS-linked suspects are Filipinos
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur asked the Royal Malaysian Police to provide its basis for saying that 5 suspects it recently arrested for alleged links to the Islamic State (ISIS) are Filipinos.
"Based on initial information received from the Royal Malaysian Police, none of the 5 had Philippine passports or other identity documents in their possession," said Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Charles Jose on Tuesday, March 14.
But despite questions on their nationalities, Jose said the Philippines is investigating the supposed links of the 5 suspects to militants in Mindanao.
The Malaysian police on Monday, March 13, announced they arrested 5 Filipinos and 2 Malaysians for aiding ISIS fighters to go to Mindanao from Sabah. The international terrorist group reportedly seeks to establish a caliphate in the Philippines as it loses territory in the Middle East. (READ: 5 Filipinos arrested in Sabah over alleged ISIS links)
The suspects reportedly belong to a new terrorist cell based in Sabah, which was the subject of a Rappler report in January.
Very close to islands in the southwestern tip of the Philippines, Sabah hosts a significant number of Filipinos who sometimes use their own boats and do not pass through proper immigration channels.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana revealed in a forum last week that Malaysia also wanted to deport up to 4,000 Filipinos to Zamboanga City. The Philippines refused to give them travel authority, however, because Malaysia failed to show proof that all 4,000 are Filipinos.
"We interjected because according to them, the judge just ruled, 'Ikaw Pilipino ka (You are Filipino)' without proof that they are really Filipinos... We complained. If they do not have proof they are Filipinos, why should we accept them? So that is stopped for a while," Lorenzana said. – Carmela Fonbuena / Rappler.com