Malaysia grants PH access to detainees

MANILA, Philippines -- For the first time, Malaysia finally gave the Philippines access to the more than 100 Filipinos detained in Sabah, in particular the 8 Filipinos facing terrorism charges over the bloody standoff.

"We want to give consular assistance to our people there. That's why we have been insisting to Malaysia to give access to these Filipinos under the Vienna Convention on consular relations," Foreign affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez said in an interview with ANC. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs has been seeking access to the detained Filipinos for more than two weeks now. It had sent at least 4 notes verbale to Malaysia regarding this request.

On Thursday, 8 Filipinos who were among the about 200 followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III who sailed to Sabah in February, faced the High Court. One of the accused, Holland Kalbi, claimed he was paid by someone to participate in the standoff.  

Hernandez said they will assess the assistance to be provided to the detained Filipinos once the government gets direct access to them. 

"We have not had any access to these eight. So when we are able to have access to them then we will be able to find out their conditions, health conditions, including the assistance that they will be needing from the Philippine government," Hernandez said.

As of Tuesday, March 20, a total of 107 Filipinos have been arrested under Malaysia's Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act while another 243 people are detained for immigration offenses, according to state news agency Bernama. It is not clear whether the 8 Filipinos who are facing terrorism raps are among the 107 arrested in Lahad Datu. 

Malaysian authorities launched a crackdown on Kiram's followers after the firefight erupted, displacing some Filipinos in Lahad Datu, Saganak and Semporna. As of Tuesday, at least 3,568 people have fled Sabah and evacuated to the Philippines since hostilities erupted between Kiram's followers and Malaysian authorities. -