THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) plans to seek a reconsideration of the verdict of the Malaysian Court of Appeals sentencing nine Filipinos to death by hanging for attacking Lahad Datu in Sabah four years ago.
The Malaysian Court of Appeals on Thursday meted the death penalty on nine Filipinos involved in the Lahad Datu attack that left 70 people dead in 2013, an act considered as waging war against the Malaysian monarch and head of state, or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Sentenced to death were Datu Amirbahar Hushin Kiram, 54, son of the late self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram; Julham Rashid, 70; Virgilio Nemar Patulada, also known as Mohamad Alam Patulada, 53; Salib Akhmad Emali, 64; Tani Lahad Dahi, 64; Basad Manuel, 42; Atik Hussin Abu Bakar, 46; Al-Wazir Osman, 62; and Ismail Yasin, 77.
The nine were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2016 by the Kota Kinabalu High Court. But Court of Appeals Justice Datuk Setia Mohd Zawawi Salleh, who led a three-man panel, granted the appeal of the prosecution to impose capital punishment. The decision was unanimous.
“With this current sentence, I am satisfied,” Deputy Public Prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin told Agence France-Presse.
“Hopefully this will deter other alien nations from intruding into Sabah and Malaysia,” he added.
Jail sentences of 13 to 18 years were also handed out to the nine for “being a member of a terrorist group.”
Raul Dado, executive director for migrant workers affairs of the DFA, said lawyers of the Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur had met to tackle the verdict.
“The decision is now on automatic appeal at the Malaysian Supreme Court. The accused have legal assistance from the Philippine government and the case is being litigated fully,” he said.
More than 200 supporters of the late Sultan Kiram, who died in 2015, stormed Lahad Datu in Sabah to press their historical dominion over the territory.
The assault, Malaysia’s most serious security crisis in years, led to a six-week siege between the militants and the country’s armed forces who were sent to root them out.
The episode eventually fizzled out when some of the militants fled the palm oil plantation where they had been holed up, and returned to the Philippines.
The self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu insisted there was enough proof to show that Sabah belongs to the Philippines because the Malaysian government had been paying him 5,300 ringgit in rent annually.
The Sulu Sultanate leased Sabah to the British North Borneo Company in 1878, an arrangement that Malaysia believes involved the cession of sovereignty.
With the Malays gaining independence from Britain, Sabah was incorporated into the Malaysian federation in 1963.
A total of 800,000 Filipinos live in Sabah, making up about a quarter of the population of the state, which is just a short boat ride from the southern Philippines.
The crisis at the time embarrassed both the Philippines and Malaysia, shining the spotlight on a porous border and locals’ complaints of rampant illegal immigration and lawlessness.