Detained Filipinos in Sabah doing well

MANILA — President Benigno Aquino III believes the Filipinos detained in Sabah are doing well amid reports of human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by Malaysian forces.

Aquino told members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) Wednesday there seemed to be a “wide” disparity between official reports and those coming from the media.

The regional office of the Commission on Human Rights in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has conducted a study on the plight of Filipinos in Sabah after the standoff led by the sultanate of Sulu. The study showed that many Filipinos, most of them legal immigrants in Sabah, have experienced abuses from Malaysian authorities.

He also denied reports that government officials are not allowed to see detained Filipinos in Sabah.

“Early on, there were issues about those who were detained and we were not being allowed to see them. But the last report, I have to recall, was that we have managed to see all of our detained individuals. I get regular updates on the status of cases that have been filed or will be filed against those who went to Sabah and allegedly perpetrated all of the violence there,” he said.

Aquino also said that the official reports and those from the media “seemed to be widely disparate.”

“Again, the reports that I get, official reports, are in wide — shall we say, disagreement with what you are stating,” he said.

He cited, for example, the case of a woman who claimed her brother died in the hands of the Malaysian forces.

“We were able to trace this particular woman. The [Department of Social Welfare and Development], I think, was principal in finding the woman, who later on said that — if I remember correctly — she actually didn’t see her brother being taken. She, in effect, retracted everything that was printed in the media,” Aquino said.

He said, however, that the government will check into the allegations.

“Having asked the question, I am now curious, and I will have a review of all the steps that have been undertaken and we’ll furnish you the results of the same,” he said.