By Ellen Tordesillas
In the press conference of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in Malacañang yesterday on the arrest of 35 armed men from Sabah, she was asked why the government is quick on acting against the people associated with the Lahad Datu standoff and is not acting on reports on maltreatment by Malaysians of Filipinos in Sabah.
De Lima justified the glaring difference in their reactions to the fact the armed men believed to be members of the Royal Security Force of the Sultan of Sulu were intercepted by the Philippine Navy in the high seas of Tawi-Tawi with firearms and deadly weapons which is a violation of the Comelec gun ban.
She skipped the second part of the question and the reporter did not follow it up.
Reliable information we got from Malacañang explains why De Lima, formerly chairperson of the Human Rights Commission, kept quiet on the issue of gross human rights violations by Malaysia against Filipinos in Sabah.
A source said President Aquino was upset that the Department of Foreign Affairs, which got involved only in the Sabah issue on the third week of the crisis (Malacanang considered it a domestic issue and involved only the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Department of Justice), issued a statement last Sunday expressing “grave concern (on) the alleged rounding up of community members of Suluk/Tausug descent in Lahad Datu and other areas in Sabah and the alleged violations of human rights reported in the media by some Filipinos who arrived in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi from Sabah.”
The DFA said “The allegations are alarming and should be properly and immediately addressed by concerned authorities.”
The DFA pleaded for access to Filipinos being held “in several locations in Sabah but outside the ‘Ops Daulat’ area,” …to enable them to fulfill their mission which is to provide humanitarian and consular assistance to Filipinos who have been affected by the incident. This was rejected by Malaysia.
Malaysia only allowed Philippine embassy officials in the evacuation centers. Malaysia has also ignored Philippine request for a Philippine Navy ship to dock in Sabah to fetch Filipinos fleeing from abusive Malaysian authorities and the request for a human corridor to allow women and children non-combatants to use.
Take note that Malacanang that Aquino, who had strong words against Jamalulu Kiram III, never said anything about Malaysia’s maltreatment of Filipinos. It was only Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte who said last Sunday, in answer to a question, “these reports are unacceptable.”
Two days after, she followed it up with a requirement that the Department of Social Welfare and Development needs a “ written statement.”
She said media interviews are not enough. “Hindi lang ‘yung basta-basta magpapa-interview—pero ‘yung talagang magsasabing, ‘Ito po ‘yung nangyari, willing po akong magbigay ng statement at pumirma na ito po ‘yung aking nasaksihan',” she said.
One wonders why is the President, in the midst of Malaysia’s pambabastos (rudenesss), he is still so careful not to offend Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The answer is in the announcement of Presidential Adviser for Peace Process Ging Deles and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that peace talks, being brokered by Malaysia, will resume next week in Kuala Lumpur.
Deles has been quoted earlier that the Sabah crisis would not affect the peace talks with the MILF.
Over 60 dead and business as usual?
Check out these related articles: