Mar 1, 2013

Malaysian forces open fire on Pinoys in Sabah, Sulu Sultan's brother claims

Malaysian security forces on Friday morning started firing at a group of Filipinos holed up in a village in Sabah, the brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III said.

In his first interview with radio dzBB on Friday at around 10 a.m., Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, the leader of the group in Sabah, said they were shot at and had to "defend" themselves.

"Biglang pumasok sa amin, we had to defend ourselves," Raja Muda Agbimuddin said.

Asked what time the Malaysian forces allegedly moved in, Raja Muda Agbimuddin said, "oras na ito (at this time)."

Reached for a comment, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez said "we are still validating as of the moment."

Hernandez said they only found out about the shooting from news reports.

The Malaysian Embassy through Raveendran Nair, First Secretary of Information and Public Diplomacy, told GMA News Online, "At the moment, the embassy has no comment. The embassy will not issue a statement on the matter."

Meanwhile, radio dzBB's Carlo Mateo reported that President Benigno Aquino III has summoned Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to a meeting amid reports about the alleged fighting in Sabah.

De Lima said the Philippine government has to be careful in giving statements on the matter at this time.

In an interview with radio dzBB, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office head Ramon Carandang said the president "is fully aware of what happened" and that he wants peaceful solution to the issue.

Gunshots in the background

Sounds of gunshots were heard in the background while the interview was being conducted. The first interview was cut, however.

In a report aired over GMA's News TV Live, reporter Mariz Umali quoted Kiram's spokesman Abe Idjirani in Manila as saying that Malaysian forces began surrounding the Filipinos at around 6 a.m.

He also said the first shot "was done by Malaysian police authorities."

"We would like to bring into your attention to an advice of our sultan his royal highness Jamal Kiram III that the hope that we had for nearly three weeks for a peaceful resolution of the Sabah standoff resulted now into the first fire perpetrated by the Malaysian police authorities," he said in an interview earlier in the day in Manila.

Wounded Filipinos

In a second interview with radio dzBB on Friday, Raja Muda Agbimuddin said he had received reports some of his men were wounded but said there will be no retreat or call for a ceasefire.

"Meron na," he said in an interview on dzBB radio when asked if some of his men had been wounded, several moments after a first interview was cut off.

When asked if there were members of the Malaysian police who were wounded, he said, "ewan ko."

In the News TV Live report, however, Umali said Raja Muda Agbimuddin claimed that two of their men were already wounded.

Shots were still heard in the background in the second interview with Raja Muda Agbimuddin.

When asked what his immediate plans were, he said, "Lalaban."

He added that he himself was trading shots with the Malaysian forces. "Tuloy pa rin," he added.

When asked if he would call a ceasefire, he said, "Sino mag-ceasefire? Sila mag-ceasefire."

Another member of the Sulu Sultan's family, Princess Jacel Kiram, told radio DZBB, "About a few minutes ago before this started, my uncle (Engr. Idjirani) was about to leave with the Malaysian ambassador kaya nagulat kami nang tumawag ang Sabah na nagsimula na ang putukan."

"Hindi na po natuloy ang pag-uusap dahil sa nangyari," the princess explained.

Defiant stance

The group had adopted a defiant stance after being surrounded by Malaysian forces, and when the first deadline for them to leave peacefully lapsed midnight of Tuesday.

The group, which claimed Sabah is their homeland, arrived in Sabah on February 9 and engaged Malaysian forces in a standoff.

Malaysian forces blocked off their food and water supplies but until Friday did not fire on them while waiting for a peaceful resolution to the situation.

On Thursday, Malaysia's The Star online reported the group of armed Filipinos coped with the blockade by living off houses abandoned by local villagers.

However, the report on Thursday said the Filipinos claimed they were "all fine" despite the land and sea blockade by Malaysian security forces.

Call for prayers

Idjirani, meanwhile, appealed for prayers for a peaceful solution.

The group and the police had been separated by a 300-meter distance, he said.
- with Marc Jayson Cayabyab, Kimberly Jane Tan, Suzette Dalumpines/VVP/KBK, GMA News


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