MANILA – Malacañang reiterated Wednesday that Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario did not label followers of Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram terrorists as reported by the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said del Rosario and Ambassador Ed Malaya both talked to Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman and agreed that several acts committed against Malaysian policemen could be considered "terroristic acts."
“Meron nga daw pong Malaysian police na napatay dun and the bodies were apparently mutilated and desecrated. Yun ang pinag-uusapan nila. So these acts of mutilation and desecration of bodies was referred to as terroristic acts,” she said.
She also noted that Kiram’s followers are supposed to be in Lahad Datu town and not Semporna where the alleged desecration took place.
“They were not called terrorists by Secretary del Rosario,” she added.
She also noted del Rosario was not informed during their dialogue early Tuesday that Malaysian forces would launch an assault against Kiram’s group.
Malaysian authorities used fighter jets to bomb parts of Sabah Tuesday to weed out Kiram and his followers after a three-week standoff.
“He was not informed prior to the operations in the morning,” Valte said.
The Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs earlier said Del Rosario vowed that the Philippine government would file criminal cases against those involved in the Lahad Datu and Semporna incidents "to the fullest extent of the law in the Philippines."
"Malaysia considers this group as terrorists following their atrocities and brutalities committed in the killing of Malaysia's security personnel, two in Lahad Datu and six in Semporna, Sabah," Anifah said.
"Secretary Rosario agreed that this group should be labeled as terrorists," Anifah added.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), however, later clarified in a statement sent early Wednesday morning that Del Rosario did not exactly label the sultan's followers as "terrorists."
"According to (Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Ed) Malaya who was present at the meeting, the report is out of context," the DFA said.
"In Semporna, there were alleged acts of terrorism. As reported by the Malaysian Foreign Minister, after the police forces were lured into an ambush and killed, their bodies were brutally mutilated and desecrated. If indeed these atrocities were committed as reported to him, the Secretary and the Foreign Minister both agreed that these were, at the very least, terroristic acts," the DFA added.
PNoy looking out for interests of not just a few
In the press conference, Valte also answered accusations of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari that President Aquino seemed to have abandoned the sultanate of Sulu’s claim over Sabah by refusing to negotiate with the Kirams.
Valte pointed out the Philippine government had been sending emissaries to the Kirams in the first 2 weeks of the standoff before any violence had occurred in Lahad Datu.
She also said the Malaysian government had given several extensions to the deadline for Raja Muda’s men to withdraw peacefully from Sabah and go home.
The Palace deputy spokesman said Aquino was not just concerned about Kiram’s men but the 800,000 Filipinos living peacefully in Sabah who could be affected by the tension.
“Malinaw ang ating pinupunto. Hindi lang ang mga buhay at kasiguruhan ng mga taong nagpunta sa Lahad Datu kundi pati yung daan daang libong mga Pilipino na naninirahan duon,” she said.
“The President has always been looking out for the interest of the nation and not just a particular set of people,” she added.
Valte said the government continues to provide assistance to families of Kiram’s men who were left behind in Tawi-Tawi.
She said the Philippine government will continue to appeal to the Malaysian government to allow a Philippine Navy ship to dock at Lahad Datu and treat the wounded among Kiram’s men and ferry the wounded back to the Philippines.