Bello calls for congressional hearing on plight of Filipinos in Sabah


Akbayan Party-list Representative Walden Bello today called for a congressional hearing to look into the plight of the Filipinos in Sabah as the Malaysian government rejected a ceasefire offered by the Sultan of Sulu.

Bello, who is the Chairperson of the Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, said he will investigate reports of alleged cases of abuse against Filipino citizens working and residing in Sabah from Malaysian security forces as a result of the crisis.

"It is the responsibility of the Philippine government to protect Filipino lives wherever they are. Even as Congress initiates an investigation to the reports of abuse committed against our nationals, all concerned agencies must already take immediate steps to ensure the safety of our countrymen in the area especially those considered 'stateless' or undocumented," Bello said.

Bello said that if there were clear violations committed against Filipino citizens, the Philippine government must demand its Malaysian counterpart to hold those involved accountable.

"The Malaysian government must not mistake our commitment to a peaceful solution to the conflict as an invitation for their security forces to take advantage of our citizens by wantonly violating their rights. All those that will be proven to have participated in such abuses should be made accountable," Bello asserted.

Malaysia's militarist response could spill over to Filipino communities in Sabah

Bello, who is also a renowned international political analyst, feared that with the militarist solution carried out by the Malaysian government to end the crisis, arrests and incarceration of undocumented Filipinos in Sabah might escalate and become more abusive. He said that even legitimate Filipino residents and workers might become vulnerable to abuses.

"We all know that in the past, Filipinos, especially trafficked Filipino women in Sabah have become victims of arrests and illegal detention from Malaysian authorities. Crises such as this often create an atmosphere of xenophobia. We hope our countrymen don't become victims of racial intolerance," Bello explained.

"Thus, we call on the Malaysian government to heed the call of the UN and reciprocate the ceasefire offered by the Sultan of Sulu. We reiterate our call for restraint from all stakeholders and for both governments not to waver in finding a diplomatic solution to this conflict," Bello added.

The Akbayan lawmaker also called on the Aquino government to work closely with its Malaysian counterpart to provide a 'humanitarian corridor' to allow the safe transit of humanitarian aid to Filipino and Malaysian citizens caught in the crossfire.

"I join the international community as we call on the Philippine and Malaysian governments to provide 'safe zones' where humanitarian organizations can provide assistance to both Filipino and Malaysian citizens who are displaced, injured and requiring medical care," Bello said.

PLM statement on the Sabah carnage

Party of the Labouring Masses (PLM)

Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) condemns the assault on Lahad Datu by the combined forces of Malaysian armed forces, commandos and Marines that led to the death of 12 members of the Sulu sultan's security forces and the death of two Malaysian policemen. Our Filipino Moro brothers camped out in Lahad Datu only to dramatize the claims on Sabah.

We hold the Philippine government equally responsible for neglecting to give them protection during the 'standoff period' with the Malaysian military that lasted for almost a month. Instead of protecting the lives of our Moro brothers, President Aquino added insult to injury by ignoring the sultanate's claim (despite it being the basis of the Philippine government's claim to Sabah) and even threatening to do them harm if they would not leave the encampment.

President Aquino should have used the occasion from day one to undertake negotiations between the Malaysian government, the Sultan's family and followers, and the Philippine government. The spokesman of Sultan Kiram has stated that there was no effort on the part of the Philippine government to intervene by leading a negotiation.

We assert that the Philippine claim to Sabah has its merits and should not be abandoned by the government. More so, the government should not have abandoned the security and lives of our Filipino Moro brothers during this period.

However, we believe that the claim should be pursued in a peaceful manner through firm diplomacy of the Philippine government.

And the final solution to the Sabah claim should also consider the demands and interests of its inhabitants, be it Malaysians, indigenous people or Filipinos who have lived there for a long time -- even the disadvantaged groups that have been historically displaced and exiled to other places because of the conflict.

We believe that this democratic process is the only way to prevent a useless war and carnage between Malaysia and the Philippines.

Akbayan on the Sabah standoff

Akbayan Party-list expresses its deep regret and sadness regarding the deterioration of the Sabah standoff into violence. The fighting which killed several of Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram's followers and Malaysian security personnel could have been prevented if both sides exercised maximum restraint. To this end we urge both parties to halt any actions that might precipitate further retaliation from either side.

Moreover, we call on the senior officials of the Philippine government to refrain from issuing statements that might only further escalate the tension between both parties. We call on them to temper their pronouncements and focus on the task of aiding in efforts to defuse the standoff by arriving at a win-win solution together with the Malaysian government and the Sultanate of Sulu.

We also call on the Aquino government to review our historical and legal claims to Sabah with the end view of developing a comprehensive strategy to engage the Malaysian government. This must be immediately undertaken after the just resolution of the crisis. We urge the government to consult and forge partnership with all the stakeholders to seek a determined, yet, peaceful and diplomatic course to assert our rightful claim.

Likewise, we call on the Malaysian government to secure the safety of thousands of Filipinos working in Sabah. We hope the crisis will not be used to fan the flames of ethnic resentment, sexism and misguided nationalist sentiment that will further complicate the matter and distract focus from the more crucial and urgent task of coming to a just and peaceful resolution.

Lastly, we call on the people, both in the Philippines and Malaysia, to exercise vigilance against groups that would want to exploit the crisis to derail the current peace effort in Mindanao and drive a wedge between Malaysia and the Philippines. The circumstances on the ground are already tense as it is. We call on the public to exercise prudence and allow the political, diplomatic and legal mechanisms to fully function to end the crisis as soon as possible.


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