Senators call on gov’t to protest abuse of Filipinos
MANILA, Philippines—Senators on Tuesday called on the Aquino administration to protest the mistreatment of Filipinos in Malaysia and demand the provision of humanitarian aid for the victims.
Sen. Francis Escudero said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should file a diplomatic protest if indeed Filipinos were being subjected to human rights violations in the Malaysian assault on supporters of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.
The chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights said the DFA should meet with its counterparts in Kuala Lumpur and find out “how best we can guarantee the rights of about 800,000 Filipinos there.”
“Nothing, and I mean nothing, not even the action of the sultanate of Sulu, can and will ever justify any government to violate the human rights of a person,” Escudero said in a text message to the Inquirer.
Sen. Loren Legarda, the chairperson of the Senate panel on foreign relations, said Malaysia’s failure to act on the Philippine request to conduct a humanitarian mission for the Filipinos in Sabah was against Asean’s principles of amity and cooperation.
Reassurances not enough
She said the International Committee of the Red Cross could help validate these reported abuses and provide assistance to the victims.
“The reported arbitrary arrest of Filipinos of Tausug/Suluk descent in Sabah and their alleged inhumane treatment by the Malaysian police require the highest attention of the government,” Legarda told the Inquirer.
“The steady stream of thousands of Filipinos to Sulu and Tawi-Tawi is an indication of the disturbing situation that has affected innocent Filipinos in Sabah. They bring with them serious allegations of inhumane treatment and arbitrary arrests,” Legarda added.
Sen. Gregorio Honasan, the chairman of the Senate committee on public order, said Malaysian reassurances were no longer enough. He said Malaysia should allow Philippine observers or those from a third party to look into the plight of Filipinos in Sabah.
“This is no longer about our claim over Sabah. This has become an international issue and the Malaysian government should show what’s true and what’s not. We need more than reassurances,” Honasan told the Inquirer.
“[Malaysia] should allow a third party or our officials to check on the condition of these alleged victims of torture and violations of human rights because Filipinos are involved,” he said.
Escudero and Legarda are running for reelection under the administration coalition Team PNoy led by President Aquino, while Honasan is part of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance of Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and former President Joseph Estrada.
Kapatiran blasts Aquino
Ang Kapatiran Party (AKP) senatorial candidates in the May elections urged the Aquino administration to push actively for the Sabah claim and hold Malaysia accountable for the mistreatment of Filipinos in the Malaysian state if proven.
“Malaysian authorities can be held liable under international humanitarian laws,” said Marwil Llasos, Kapatiran’s international law expert.
“The Philippine government must press Malaysia to respect the human rights of Filipinos there, especially the unarmed civilians,” Llasos said.
“About 60 percent of the military is deployed in the South and a big amount is being allocated for intelligence funds. But there was no report about the planned movement of the sultan’s followers to go to Sabah. That conflict should not have happened if there was military intelligence from the very beginning,” he said.
Llasos added that President Aquino was also clueless about the Philippine claim to Sabah.
“When this came out, he said he will ask the justice secretary to come out with a legal study of the claim. Apparently, he didn’t know that there was a study way back in 1962 by such great brilliant legal minds like Arturo Tolentino and Jovito Salonga,” he said.
“And he is more on the campaign trail rather than organizing a war room. Even the way his emissaries conducted themselves was very disappointing,” Llasos added.
Rizalito David, another Kapatiran senatorial candidate, also said the government should continue to press its claim on Sabah.
“Sabah is historically, legally and morally ours. It would be an injustice to the Filipino people if the government will not pursue our just claim. If the people in government will not move to have the claim revived then perhaps the people on their own should initiate it. More than the resources that can be used for our nation’s own development, I believe we owe it to those who have lost their lives in regaining our sovereignty over Sabah,” David said.