DIGOS CITY, Davao del Sur, Philippines – Several Filipinos in Sabah have been helping militants in Sulu by regularly sending them money, a ranking Malaysian police official, who was quoted in a radio report, said Tuesday.
Deputy Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar, Malaysian police assistant chief, did not say what particular group has been benefiting from these remittances but it was an open knowledge that the Abu Sayyaf is a Sulu-based militant.
The Abu Sayyaf, a ragtag band of self-proclaimed Islamists, has been giving Philippine authorities lot of headaches over the years with its kidnapping and bombing activities.
It has been linked to the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiya – a terror group that operates in Malaysia.
In the past, the Abu Sayyaf had ventured into Malaysian territories, either to rob a bank as what took place in Lahad Datu in 1985; snatch victims as in the case of the 2000 Sipadan hostage crisis; or attack villages, as in the incident of Pulau Pandanan in September of the same year.
Speaking at a news conference in Felda Sahabat, which a Sabah-based radio station has reported on – Khalid said these people – mostly from the district of Sandakan and Semporna – have been placed “under surveillance.” He did not disclose the number of those put under surveillance.
“Financing militants in Jolo is a serious offense and those involved would be arrested under the Security Offenses and Special Measures Act (SOSMA),” he was quoted as saying.
SOSMA is an anti-terrorism and anti-rebellion law passed in 2012 and had replaced the equally criticized Internal Security Act. Malaysian authorities could detain a suspect under SOSMA for up to 28 days even without formal charges.
Khalid said if enough evidence were gathered, those who would be detained for helping militants in Sulu could face life imprisonment or even death, depending on the amount of money they had already sent.
But he later hinted the police were still giving them a chance “to stop (sending money)” to “militants” even if their past acts already “amounted to treason.”
“The police will not hesitate to act (if they continue sending money to the militants),” Khalid said.