MANILA - Contrary to diplomatic protocol, the Malaysian government did not inform the Philippines about the filing of charges on 8 Filipinos in connection with the Sabah violence, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez said Thursday.
He said they only learned about it in the news, much like everyone else.
Bernama, the national news agency of Malaysia, published the report.
On its website, Bernama detailed the court proceedings wherein the 8 were charged with "engaging in terrorism" and "waging a war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong," or the Malaysian king.
The article said some of the detainees were in straightjackets.
Some, Bernama said, also had difficulty understanding the charges despite the presence of interpreters.
In the same hearing, the Malaysian court explained to the Filipinos the punishment that awaits those convicted. But Hernadez says Malaysia has yet to contact them, much less allow them to communicate with the 8 detainees.
"Usually, pag mga ganitong cases, mayroong coordination. Ibig sabihin, information is shared openly and easily with both parties.Pero hanggang ngayon, hindi pa rin sila nagre-respond."
Hernandez said this was a violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
"Kung halimbawa, mangyari sa kanila ito dito sa Pilipinas, ia-allow din natin sila ng access dun sa kanilang mga nationals na hawak po natin. So dapat ganun ang tingin nila dito."
Hernandez added that the charges filed against the Filipinos - as mentioned on Malaysian media - fall under violations of the Malaysian Penal Code.
Chapter 6 of the Code, on "Offences Against the State," say "Whoever wages war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or against any of the Rulers or Yang di-Pertua Negeri, or attempts to wage such war, or abets the waging of such war, shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life."
The charges, Hernandez says, may also fall under Malaysia's Security Offences Act of 2012, which "seeks to provide for special measures in dealing with security offences (...) while recognizing the grave risks to internal security and public order presented by the threat of terrorism, sabotage and espionage."
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario has instructed Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Ed Malaya to continue to push for an audience with the detainees.
"Ini-insist talaga natin," Hernandez said. "Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, kailangan natin makausap, makita yung mga kababayan natin, para mabigyan sila ng tulong."
He said the Philippine government is willing to provide legal assistance to the 8, along with any other kind of help, despite the fact that the government has also pressed charges against 32 Filipinos who are believed to be members of the Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu when they were spotted returning to Tawi-Tawi from Sabah.
"Tutulungan natin sila, kasi parte yan ng mandato ng gobyerno, na kung ang ating kababayan ay nasa ibang bansa, dapat tulungan natin, at alagaan yung kanialng kapakanan, at protektahan yung kanilang kaligtasan. Nandyan yung mandato na yan, so gagawin natin yung ganitogn kaukulang tulong sa mga kababayan natin na nandoon sa Sabah," Hernandez said.