MANILA, Philippines—Filipino embassy officials were able to visit eight alleged followers of the Sultanate of Sulu currently detained in a prison in Sabah after they were charged with terrorism and rebellion in connection with the Feb. 9 incursion there that left over 80 people dead, mostly Filipinos.
The Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur said on Sunday its consular team was able to visit the eight at the prison facility in Tawau last March 28.
The team was led by First Secretary and Consul Antonina Mendoza-Oblena and director Renato Villa. They inquired about the conditions of the eight as well as their places of origin and respective families.
The embassy identified the eight who are now facing criminal charges as Atil Hussin Bin Abu Bakar, Basad H. Manuel, Habil Bin Suhaili, Holland Bin Kalbi, Thimhar Hadil Suhaili, Lin Bin Mad Salleh, Kadir Bin Uyung and Lating Bin Tiong.
“It is a standing policy of the Philippine government to provide appropriate consular assistance to nationals in distress, whether or not we agree with their acts of advocacies,” Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malaya said in a statement.
Malaya said the embassy would like to ensure the rights of the eight were respected and they would have legal representation in court sessions set to resume on April 12.
The embassy said the visit of its team was made possible with the help of the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General’s chambers and Tawau prison officials.
It also said that it may be difficult for the embassy to extend consular assistance to Raja Muda Agbimuddin, who led the incursion in Lahad Datu, following revelations about his Malaysian citizenship.
The embassy quoted an interview that Malaysian Defense Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi gave to the media on March 23, confirming the Malaysian citizenship of Agbimuddin who once worked as a civil servant in Sabah.
Agbimuddin worked as an assistant district officer in Kudat under the administration of former Sabah Chief Minister Tun Datu Mustapha Datu Harun.