MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has been granted consular access to the eight members of the Sulu Sultanate’s “royal army” who are now facing charges in a Malaysian court.
“A note verbale informed the [Philippines] embassy in Kuala Lumpur that consular access to the eight Filipinos will be granted to the embassy in accordance with the Vienna Convention on consular relations,” Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a televised phone interview Friday.
“It is very important for us to have access to our ‘kababayans’ in Lahad Datu or in Sabah so that we will be able to find out exactly their conditions and so that we could extend or provide appropriate assistance to our people there,” Hernandez said.
The eight members of the armed group were slapped with charges of terrorism and violations of the Malaysian penal code filed with the magistrate court of Lahad Datu on March 20.
The charges filed against them carry the penalty of death, Abraham Idjirani, spokesman for the Sultanate of Sulu, said in earlier reports.
Members of the Sulu “Royal Army,” led by the Sulu sultan’s brother Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, had sailed to Sabah more than a month ago to reclaim what they insist is their rightful territory.
Malaysian authorities conducted an offensive against the group after several days of failed negotiations for them to leave. Since then, several members of the Sulu “Royal Army” have been arrested, many have fled and returned to Sulu, while some were still in Sabah and are being hunted by the Malaysian security forces.