Sabah 'intruder' admits he was paid: report
MANILA – One of the eight supporters of self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III who was charged before a Malaysian court over the Sabah incursion admitted to being paid by someone, a Malaysian state news agency reported.
Bernama reported that Hooland Kalbi admitted he was paid by someone in exchange for going to Sabah to press the ownership claim of the Kirams to the resource-rich territory.
Hooland and 7 others faced a Malaysian court on Thursday. The men, aged between 17 and 66, were charged with terrorism and waging war against Malaysia's king after appearing in a heavily guarded court in the coastal town of Lahad Datu, site of most of the fighting.
The report quoted Hooland as saying that he felt "foolish" for joining the incursion, but judge P. Ravinthran said the admission was unnecessary "as his plea would only be recorded after he had obtained a lawyer."
Waging war against Malaysia's king carries a possible death penalty while they could face life imprisonment if found guilty of terrorism.
Aside from Hooland, the report also identified the rest of the accused as Timhar Hadir, Habil Suhali, Atik Hussin Abu Bakar, Lin Mad Salleh, Basad Manuel, Kadir Uyung, and Lating Tiong.
All of the accused, except for Habil, wore straitjackets during the hearing. Habil, believed to be in his 60s, denied the charges against him.
Timhar, meanwhile, told the court that he entered Malaysia last February using an international passport. He was also prevented from saying more by Ravinthran without consulting his lawyer.
The other four accused – Lin, Basad l, Kadir and Lating – had nothing to say.
Timhar, Habil, Lin and Hooland were charged with engaging in terrorism. They were charged under Section 130K of Malaysia's penal code.
Atik Hussin and Basad were charged with both engaging in terrorism and waging war against the king. They were charged under Section 121 of the penal code
Kadir and Lating, meanwhile, were charged with protecting the group, which has been tagged by Malaysia as "terrorists". They were charged under Section 130KA and 511of the penal code.
The cases of the eight were ordered to be transferred to the Tuwau High Court from the Magistrate's Court. The next hearing on the case has been set on April 12.
During Thursday's proceedings, the eight accused were given the chance to explain themselves. They were also told of the punishment they are facing in case they get convicted. They were not allowed to post bail.
Judge P. Ravinthran decided not to put on record the plea of the eight. This, after lead prosecutor Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail appealed for the plea to be made only after all the accused get their respective legal counsels.
Abdul Gani earlier told the court that the help of the Sabah Bar Council had been sought in providing counsels for the accused.
"The prosecution will also contact the Philippine Embassy on the matter in the spirit of Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and if no counsel was forthcoming, the court can appoint lawyers to represent them," Abdul Gani said.
Diplomatic protocol not followed
Department of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Raul Hernandez said contrary to diplomatic protocol, the Malaysian government did not inform the Philippines about the filing of charges on the eight supporters.
"Usually, kapag mga ganitong cases, mayroong coordination. Ibig sabihin, information is shared openly and easily with both parties. Pero hanggang ngayon, hindi pa rin sila nagre-respond," he said.
Hernandez said this was a violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
"Kung halimbawa, mangyari sa kanila ito dito sa Pilipinas, ia-allow din natin sila ng access dun sa kanilang mga nationals na hawak po natin. So dapat ganun ang tingin nila dito."
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario has instructed Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Ed Malaya to continue to push for an audience with the detainees.
"Ini-insist talaga natin," Hernandez said. "Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, kailangan natin makausap, makita yung mga kababayan natin, para mabigyan sila ng tulong."
The DFA said the Philippine government is set to provide legal assistance to the eight accused.
Hernandez said the DFA has already instructed the Philippine ambassador in Kuala Lumpur to get more details about the report "so that we could extend appropriate assistance to the people who were indicted in Lahad Datu for terrorism crimes."
"It is important that they are able to have access to them and we are able to talk to them and if needed, we will be able to ensure that legal representation is afforded to them so that they can defend themselves in court in Malaysia," he said.
Hernandez said it is part of DFA's mandate to extend help to every overseas Filipino who needs assistance from the government.
"Our mandate is really to offer consular assistance to our people and the consular assistance will also include legal assistance. If, for example, it will come to a point that they will need legal assistance and free legal assistance could not be obtained, we will ensure that we will be able to offer assistance on that issue so that their rights are well protected," he said.
Malaysian security forces have been pursuing more than 200 Kiram followers, some of whom are believed to be armed, who entered Sabah state on Borneo island last month to resurrect long-dormant land claims.
Clashes between the gunmen and Malaysian forces, who launched a military attack on their hideout two weeks ago, have led to at least 70 deaths, mostly of militants. – with Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News