Filipinos who are being detained as Malaysia cracks down on illegal migrant workers should be treated humanely, Vice President Jejomar Binay appealed to Malaysian authorities on Friday.
Binay, who is the Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns, said if Filipino workers were proven to be illegally staying in Malaysia, it is just proper that they should be punished, but not abused.
The Vice President made the appeal following reports that even legitimate Filipino workers are being subjected to abuse and torture by Malaysian authorities.
He said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is already looking into reports, saying that even Filipinos with proper documents are being rounded up in Sabah and taken to detention centers where they are forced to admit that they are illegal workers.
“What we are complaining (about) are reports that even our legitimate workers were rounded up and abused. That is no longer humane,” Binay told reporters.
The Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur had reminded Filipinos in Malaysia before the crackdown began on January 21 to complete their immigration documentation and always carry identification papers to avoid being wrongly detained.
Malacañang has also directed the DFA to mobilize its consular office in Malaysia to check on the reports.
The DFA said only a few Filipinos have asked the Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur for help in repatriation.
Malaysian Interior Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said foreign workers who are found without valid documents would be deported within seven days.
According to reports, one Filipino was “maltreated by Malaysian immigration authorities in Sabah,” the embassy in Kuala Lumpur said it is checking on other possible abuses.
In a statement Friday, the embassy said it is “sending one of its personnel to Sabah to check on the conditions of nationals there and provide the necessary assistance.”
“We stand ready to provide help, including the provision of needed documents and other forms of assistance,” it added.
The embassy said it had been assisting undocumented Filipinos in Malaysia since September, when an initial crackdown was announced.
“The embassy coordinated with Malaysian immigration authorities in facilitating the release of exit passes and in the decrease of penalties levied on overstaying foreigners” and “representatives have been on hand when these Filipinos apply for their exit passes and taking them by the busloads to the Immigration office,” the embassy said.
“We still are and will be undertaking the same assistance for our nationals,” it said.
The embassy said it “continuously undertakes mobile consular missions particularly in Sabah, where we provide not just passports but also birth documentations and other forms of assistance to our nationals” to ensure Filipinos have proper documents.
Among the places the consular missions visited last year, when deadly clashes broke out between followers of the Sulu sultanate and Malaysian security forces, were Kinabalu, Lahad Datu, Semporna, Tawau, Kudat, Keningau, Kota Marudu and Sandakan in Sabah, and Kuching, Labuan, Miri and Bintulu in Sarawak.
This month, a consular mission will be held in Kota Kinabalu.