They live and die without records. They do not get formal education. Neither do they get medical assistance. They live on their own—no government protects them. Like rats, they are always on the run to avoid imprisonment. But they are no criminals. They are the undocumented Pinoy, in Sabah.
In March of this year, three Pinoy teens, identified as Nording Akang, 16; Lahudin Nasir, 17; and Alex Nasir, 18 – died of suffocation during an operation of the Eastern Sabah Security Command against undocumented individuals in Lahad Datu, Eastern Sabah. Based on initial reports, the raiding team sprayed insecticides where the three were hiding.
We were told the Malaysian government will conduct full investigation on the incident. In a text message yesterday, Foreign Affairs Asec. Charles Jose said: “According to our embassy in Kuala Lumpur, police investigation is still ongoing but they have already expressed to the Malaysian government their deep concern over the incident and called the relevant agencies to treat undocumented individuals humanely to avoid unnecessary loss of lives.”
This is not the first time lives were lost during the raid. The International Organization for Migration previously reported about children who were drowned while hiding from Malaysian migration authorities.
There were also reports of violence and physical abuse on arrested individuals—chained, physically abused and bullied.
Not only that. Late last year, there were some Filipino women who were reportedly sexually abused by Malaysian jail guards in Sabah. Those women were not arrested for any crime, they just fell into the hands of Malaysian immigration authorities during round ups on undocumented individuals and thrown to overcrowded jails.
Yet, despite these abuses, we have not heard much from our foreign affairs department. In an interview on DZRH, foreign affairs Asst. Sec. Charles Jose admitted that the government has yet to study the possible actions the country may take against the abuses committed by Malaysian authorities,
In 2013, it was estimated that there were about 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah, documented and undocumented. According to Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malaya, about 300,000 of those are documented while based on reports, about 100,000 have been deported.
This only means that there are still 400,000 undocumented Pinoys in Sabah. This number is growing. It grows even faster because Malaysia prohibits migrant workers, even documented ones, from bringing their families, marry or have children while in Malaysia, a policy that can be considered crime against humanity.
With the growing number of undocumented individuals, the crackdown on undocumented individuals will continue. Of course, everybody knows what this means— more abuses and more violence if our government does not act.
Unfortunately, despite these human rights abuses, going to the International Court of Justice is not probable at the moment. Malaysia is one of the 42 countries which have neither signed nor acceded to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. As such, the ICJ has no jurisdiction to over Malaysia.
Assertion of our Sabah claim would have made a difference on the way Filipinos in Sabah are treated. And yet, we have not heard of any government action on the issue.
This is now the challenge: how will the Philippine government protect our kababayans in Sabah? Will we hear any answer from the government soon? I hope so.
*Catch me live on weekdays at DZRH 6:00-7:30PM or you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org