SPECIAL REPORT by Julmunir I. Jannaral
MANILA- The relatives of detained Filipinos in Sabah Immigration Holding Center are appealing to Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to help in the repatriation of some 3,000 Filipino detainees who are jam packed in crowded immigration center who are sick and hungry as well.
Warda Majun Straub, younger sister of one of the detainees has made a strong appeal to Foreign Affairs Secretary Locsin, Jr. to act fast and direct Ambassador Charles C. Jose of the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to fast track the travel documents of the detainees who had served jail sentence.
Straub cited the case of his older brother who is a civil engineer by profession who is still languishing in Sandakan Immigration Holding Center waiting to be deported to the Philippines. He is identified as Engr. Hadji Badar Aguell Majun who hails from Jolo, Sulu.
Fortunately, the Philippine Muslim Today was able to interview by phone Engr. Majun who was communicating with this writer secretly after 3 of his cellphone units were confiscated by the guards on duty since cellphone units are strictly prohibited. At the start of the interview, he immediately made an appeal for help not only for himself but for the rest of 3,000 Filipino detainees still suffering at the Sandakan Immigration Holding Center in Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia.
Engr. Majun described to PMT-19 the unbearable situation at the immigration holding center. He described it is a kind of hell on earth the situation inside the holding center. He said he is so thin now and malnourished since at one time he and his wife from Jolo were not able to eat solid foods for 3 days. He said the Malaysian government in Sabah does not look after the welfare of the detainees who are mostly Filipinos.
He said with the thousands of detainees there are only three comfort rooms and no water supply also. He said as a Muslim he always failed to perform the 5 times obligatory prayers since there is no water he can use to take a bath as well as the mandatory ablution where Muslims are obliged to wash their hands, feet and face before starting the prayers.
Philippine Embassy in Malaysia has issued a formal statement regarding its long-running issuance of travel documents to Filipinos, which is the reason why detainees in detention centers in the state of Sabah have been staying longer, according to the
SMNI News Malaysia.
SMNI refers to the Sonshine Media Network International. SMNI is the broadcasting arm of a Philippine television evangelist, Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy. It was licensed in late 2003 by the Philippine government to operate 37 analog free-to-air television channels in key cities across the country.
The delay of the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to provide the much needed travel documents to the detainees prompted some
netizens to demand from the Philippine government to establish a Consulate in Sabah. However these people do not know the real situation why the Philippine government could not put up a Consulate in Sabah due to the Sabah Claim by the Philippine government is not yet dropped. It can be recalled that the State of Sabah is owned proprietarily including the sovereignty by the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo (Sabah). However, it was unilaterally annexed to Malaysia in 1963 when the Federation of Malaysia was established.
It can be recalled on 16 September 1963, The Federation of Malaysia was formed following the merger of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo (Sabah).
Be that as it may, the inhumane congestion of Sandakan Immigration Holding Center, an NGO (Non-governmental Organization) known as the Malaysian International Humanitarian Organization (HMO) criticized by the holding center and including the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur for the over delayed of giving travel documents to the Filipino detainees in Sandakan.
The MHO claimed that the Philippine Embassy doesn’t give much attention to the Filipino detainees in Sandakan. But sources from the Philippine Embassy said they are now coordinating with the MHO regarding this issue.
The Philippine Embassy also belied the allegations of MHO that they are not giving much attention to the Filipino detainees. In fact they said they are now processing all the applications of the detainees from Sandakan received by the Embassy for the issuance of their travel documents.
The Philippine Embassy added they are following the right procedure if only to follow the COVID-19 health and safety protocols in the transfer of the detainees from the immigration detention centers in Sabah to Zamboanga City.
They added the Philippine Embassy is also coordinating with Philippine government agencies regarding this issue in order to ensure the safety and orderly regarding the deportations of the detainees back to the Philippines.
However, according to the MHO they can understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is one reason that made the deportation of Filipino detainees from Sabah to the Philippines incurred so much delay.
However the MHO added if the inhumane situation of the Filipino detainees inside the Sandakan Immigration Holding Center are taken into consideration, the Philippine Embassy should have thought of other alternative means in order to lessen the number of Filipinos under detention.
The MHO who are taking cognizance of the plights of the detainees said the Philippine Embassy should not rely on the present situation especially there are so many Filipinos suffering from hunger and many have become sick already.
This was confirmed by Engr. Majun to this writer when he described the hardships inside the Sandakan Immigration Holding Center. He said they are made to lie down on the cemented floor with no bed at all.
The MHO also emphasized, “We are talking more of humanity if the compliance required more than 2 months or more than one year, maybe they need to find a way to find another solution, another way is to reduce the number of men or detainees. We cannot rely on the current compliance because we must, and we need to understand the people inside the deportation center. They are suffering, they really need to accept they’ve been infected by the disease, the problem is food, the problem is health care so by answering this, is compliance for us not sufficient enough?”
Hence, “We need to find a solution because the Covid-19 is not a 1 to 2 months case, it is already for long for 2 years, so if the issue is the port or the ferry issue between Sandakan to Zamboanga probably the Embassy need to find a logistic consultant, provide an alternative way maybe they must create another room plan. For example, using a flight from Kota Kinabalu sends them to Manila a bit. Of course, there are some people who can afford to use a flight so we cannot rely on one way only, which is from Sandakan to Zamboanga. Find alternative ways probably by using a an airplane flight.” (JIJ)