Please don't harm Sabah any more...
38 men headed for Sabah charged by DOJMANILA, Philippines - Criminal charges were filed yesterday against the 38 passengers of two boats intercepted in the Sulu Sea last Wednesday while reportedly on their way to Sabah to help their comrades fight Malaysian forces.
Prosecutor General Claro Arellano of the Department of Justice (DOJ) said charges of illegal possession of firearms, violation of the election gun ban, and inciting to war – a crime under Article 118 of the Revised Penal Code – were filed with the Tawi-Tawi regional trial court in Bongao yesterday afternoon against the 38 individuals, not 36 as earlier reported.
This developed as Sulu sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani said only 22 of the 38 arrested and detained at the Philippine Navy’s station in Panglima Sugala in Tawi- Tawi were members of the “royal sultanate army.”
The 38 were subjected to inquest Thursday night.
The DOJ cited as evidence the assorted weapons and ammunitions seized from the group.
“They will continue to be detained in the naval facility in Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi unless the court says otherwise,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told reporters.
The 38 comprised the first batch of the armed followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to face charges in the country for their incursion in Sabah.
De Lima insisted the government can prosecute the group led by Agbimuddin Kiram – a brother of the sultan – under Philippine laws even if the alleged crimes have been committed in Malaysia.
Some 300 followers of the sultan – mostly armed – crossed over to Lahad Datu in Sabah last Feb. 12 to claim the territory as their own.
De Lima said the Philippine legal system has extraterritorial jurisdiction over Agbimuddin and his group under Article 2 Section 2 of Revised Penal Code (RPC).
But Harry Roque Jr., director of the Institute of International Legal Studies of the UP Law Center, told The STAR that such extraterritorial coverage does not apply to all crimes.
He said such provision does not apply to charges of rebellion, illegal possession of firearms, illegal assembly and violation of the election gun ban.
“The only crime that may be charged in this case is Article 118 or inciting to war. But the defense would be they did not incite to war but only out to reclaim their land,” he stressed. Idjirani, meanwhile, said the 38 sultanate fighters were led by Datu Panglima Sabandal Eddie Idris of Basilan who holds the rank of general in the sultanate army.
Idjirani said Tawi-Tawi Vice Gov. Ruby Sahali has confirmed the identities of the 38 “warriors” whose only offense, he stressed, was their trying to settle in Sabah. They were fluent in Malay having spent years in Sabah, Idjirani said.
He said the Malaysian navy first spotted the group and alerted the Philippine Navy, which made the arrests. Edu Punay, Mike Frialde, Roel Pareño