9 Pinoys sentenced to death in Malaysia over 2013 Sabah incursion
Nine Filipinos who participated in the bloody attempt to retake Sabah from Malaysia in 2013 have been sentenced to death by the Malaysian Court of Appeals.
A report on the New Straits Times said the Court of Appeals on Thursday granted the prosecution's appeal to overturn the life sentence meted on the Filipinos last year.
The nine were part of the armed group that invaded Lahad Datu in Sabah in February 2013 to assert the claim to the throne of the Sultanate of Sulu.
The assault, Malaysia's most serious security crisis in years, led to a siege between the militants and the Malaysian armed forces who were sent to root them out. At least 70 people were killed, mostly Filipino militants, over the six-week ordeal.
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 unanimous decision came after a three-man panel allowed the prosecution's appeal to overturn the Filipinos' life sentence meted out last year.
"With this current sentence, I am satisfied," Deputy Public Prosector Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin told AFP. "Hopefully this will deter other alien nations from intruding into Sabah and Malaysia."
All nine were found guilty for waging war on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or Malaysian monarchy, an offense under Section 121 of the Penal Code punishable by life imprisonment or death, according to an Asian Correspondent report.
Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh, chair of the three-man panel, said the nine were "part of a conspiracy" against the Malaysian government to dictate its foreign relations and weaken the country to reclaim Sabah.
The Philippines said it would ask Malaysia to reconsider the death penalty.
Raul Dado, acting executive director of the Department of Foreign Affairs' Office of Migrant Affairs, said Philippine officials in Malaysia are "meeting immediately with embassy lawyers."
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in a statement said, "The Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of the High Court acquitting 13 Filipinos of various crimes related to treason and terrorism. However, the Court of Appeal also affirmed the decision of the High Court convicting nine Filipinos of the crime of waging war against the king. It also overturned the High Court’s imposition of life imprisonment and imposed the greater penalty of death."
"The Court of Appeal’s decision is not yet final. It will be heard by the Federal Court of Malaysia (Supreme Court) under automatic appeal."
The agency also underscored that the Philippine government "extended legal and other forms of assistance to all the defendants from the trial stage of their case up to the appeal, and will continue to extend assistance to them as their case progresses."
"In the meantime, the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur is monitoring their case very closely."
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.
The sentencing comes as Philippine troops continue an offensive to dislodge militants flying the Islamic State group flag who seized the southern city of Marawi more than two weeks ago.
President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law in Marawi and the rest of the southern region of Mindanao shortly after the rampage to crush what he said was a rising threat of IS in the country. — Rie Takumi with Agence France Presse/KBK/BAP, GMA News