Philippine cops: No plans to arrest Sulu group upon return home
KUALA LUMPUR, March 8 — The Philippine national police have no plans to arrest or detain the Sulu Sultanate’s “royal army” should it find a way to return to the Philippines, pointing out that the gunmen had breached laws in Malaysia.
National Police director-general Alan Purisma said in a report on ABN-CBS News website yesterday that the police, who arrived in Tawi-Tawi this morning, were merely there to “secure the citizens”.
The Sulu Sultanate’s “royal security force” has its base camp set up at Tawi-Tawi where they have been anxiously awaiting news on the fate of their fellow Filipinos in Sabah’s Lahad Datu, which has turned into a conflict zone.
“The crime was committed in Malaysia. They should file charges in Malaysia,” Purisma was quoted as saying in the news report.
ABN-CBS News also reported that Purisma conducted a command conference at the provincial police office in Tawi-Tawi before heading off to see the royal army in Siminul Island to assess the security situation.
On the possible violations previously mentioned by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III that were purportedly committed by self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his men, Purisma said the matter was still being studied.
“If no one comes here with guns, how to we just arrest them,” he asked.
The report said Purisma had stressed on the main concerns of the mission at present, which is to maintain peace and order on the ground in the southern Philippines, which has been facing a shortage in basic commodities and fluctuating prices of goods.
The Malaysian Insider reported yesterday that Jamalul and his brother Agbimuddin, who is leading the armed rebellion in Sabah with over 200 soldiers, may face myriad of criminal charges in the Philippines over the bloody standoff in Sabah, including inciting war and illegal possession of firearms.
According to a report on ABN-CBS News yesterday, the Aquino administration had instructed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to prepare “airtight” cases against Jamalul and his royal army, who are still in a gunfight with Malaysian security forces in Lahad Datu.
The report said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told a press conference that the order from Aquino has already been conveyed to the NBI by the government’s principal law agency, the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“The instruction of president is: prepare airtight charges ... the priority, of course, is to file the case here in the Philippines.”
“The focus now is on the NBI’s investigation.... the government’s priority is to determine the charges and to gather evidence and identify charges on violation of Philippine laws. So that is what we are doing,” she said.
The news report said that de Lima had earlier announced that the Kiram family may be charged with “inciting war or giving motives for reprisals” under Article 118 of the country’s revised Penal Code, apart from the illegal possession of firearms, violations of the election gun ban and illegal assembly, among others.
After facing charges in the Philippines, the Sultan and his men may be hauled to Malaysia for more punishment, de Lima reportedly said, once the DOJ studies laws here and in the Philippines on the possibility of extradition.
“They have also violated Malaysian laws... we will study [the extradition] but our priority now is the filing of cases here. We have no extradition treaty with Malaysia but there might be some mechanism so that will be included in the study,” De Lima said.
Earlier yesterday, Aquino said his government prefers to punish Jamalul and his men in the Philippines first before extraditing the self-styled Sulu Sultan to Malaysia to face charges for the armed rebellion in Sabah.
The president said in a report on ABN-CBS News that the Philippines has no extradition treaty with Malaysia but there are other mechanisms that may permit extraditing Jamalul, such as the mutual legal assistance treaty in force under ASEAN.
As at yesterday evening, the Sulu death toll surged to 52, with 32 militants killed since Tuesday’s ground work, according to Malaysian authorities.
Eight Malaysian policemen were slain over the weekend here and in Semporna, leading to an overall death toll of 60 at press time.
The standoff started on February 9 when Agbimuddin and his army landed in Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu, hoping to assert their ownership of the land.