Philippine arts

‘If you are Tausug, they will arrest you’

Karlos Manlupig
Filipinos in Sandakan live in fear, says a Filipino evacuee from Sabah who brought her entire family home

TAWI-TAWI, Philippines – As boatloads of Filipino evacuees from Sabah arrived in Bongao town in Tawi-Tawi, sad news from Sabah also reached the country’s shores. 

More Filipinos are stranded in the port area of Sandakan waiting for the Philippine Navy or any vessel that would take them back home, the evacuees said.

Atting Jahiron, her husband and 10 children were lucky to get a ride back to Tawi-Tawi on Friday, March 8. Jahiron told Rappler Filipinos in Sandakan live in fear, confirming reports of atrocities against Filipinos there. 

“Food supply for the Filipinos is dwindling while they are always on the look out for Malaysian police that may arrest them,” Jahiron said.

“I am also worried for those who have no fare. They have no options but to wait for ships that will be sent by the Philippines,” she added. 

Crackdown on Tausugs

Jahiron also confirmed previous reports that Tausugs have it worst. She said the Malaysian police is more strict in handling Tausugs. 

“Police have manned more checkpoints wherein they are more lenient to Badjaos. This is discrimination,” Jahiron said.

“If you are Tausug, there will be no questions asked. They will arrest you immediately,” she added. In prison cells, she said Filipinos are rarely given food.

“And their families cannot consistently bring them food because they also have to evade arrest,” Jahiron said. 

The Tausugs are the dominant ethnic group of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, where the followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III came from. They sailed to Sabah on February 9 to stake their claim on the disputed territory. 

‘Run as fast as you can’

The Philipine Daily Inquirer accounts more stories of atrocities against Filipinos in Sabah. (READ: Filipino refugees describe deadly crackdown in Sabah)

Amira Taradji told the Inquirer how Malaysian security forces killed her brother Jumadil. “They dragged all the males outside the house, kicked and hit them.” 

She said Malaysian cops toyed with Filipinos. They ordered them to run away from the cops, who would go after them and gun them down. 

She narrated how her brother was killed on Monday, March 4, during a “zoning operation” in Sandakan. 

The Malaysian security forces are not only after illegal migrants, she said. “Even if you have valid immigration document, you will not be spared. If you are lucky to reach the jail, you will die of starvation because they will not feed you,” Taradji told the Inquirer

Gov’t must intervene

Moro human rights group Kawagib said the same human rights violations also happened in past deportations.

“Based on the narratives gathered from those who arrived from Sabah, many would like to go home but they cannot go past the checkpoints,” the group said. 

Kawagib said the people know that the Malaysian authorities would launch a massive crackdown. 

“The government, through its diplomatic ties with Malaysia, must assert for the protection of the human rights of the Filipinos in Sabah,” Kawagib said.

The group is also monitoring any moves by Philippine security forces to filter arriving refugees and apprehend suspected members of the Royal Security Force. 

But an official from the Philippine Marines denied there are orders or plans to apprehend anyone arriving from Sabah. –


Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.