The Philippines and Malaysia should unite against one common enemy: human rights abuses.
Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Etta Rosales cited this as basis for sending a letter to her Malaysian counterpart right after receiving reports of human rights violations in Sabah.
Rosales explained a partnership with Suhakam or the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia will be the best option for both countries to make sure the armed conflict in Sabah will not affect innocent civilians.
“It would be best if we can have a joint mission with the Commission on Human Rights of Malaysia so we can go to Sabah and together, we can conduct investigation,” Rosales said in a chance interview.
“That’s what we want to do. But we need permission first from the Malaysian prime minister or their Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” she added.
Rosales issued the statement after Filipino Muslims told tales of horror as Malaysian authorities launched a crackdown on Filipinos linked with Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.
Citing oral reports from CHR in Zamboanga region, Rosales admitted being alarmed about how Malaysian authorities use brutality to drive away Filipinos from the oil-rich territory.
“I am, of course, concerned with these stories because the truth of the matter is, this is not the first time that Filipinos have problems of enjoying their human rights,” Rosales said.
“I used to go to KL (Kuala Lumpur) and talk to the embassy to discuss the problems of poor Filipinos in Sabah who are still being neglected because most of them are stateless,” she added.
Over the weekend, Filipino Muslims started arriving from Sandakan, with some of them saying Malaysian security forces allegedly treat civilians with Filipino roots “like animals.”
Rosales, meanwhile, said she would demand the head of Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN)’s Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) to do its job.
“I will also write to Ambassador Rosario Manalo who heads the Commission on Human Rights for Women and Children at the ASEAN level,” Rosales said.
“Why are they not doing their job? It was created as a human rights body and now there’s a human rights problem in the region, they are not doing anything?” she asked.
Rosales leads an independent government commission, which has been undergoing the process of documenting reports of human rights victims that came from Malaysia since March 4.
She noted sending more teams that will help the government officially report how many women, children, elderly, and disabled had been affected by the military action against Kiram’s followers.
“I would think from the point of view of the fact that we are all members of the UN like Malaysia and the Philippines that we all subscribe to the universal declaration of human rights,” Rosales said.
“I would like to think that the Malaysian government also investigates reports of human rights abuses allegedly committed by their police in the same way that the Philippine government does like in the Atimonan shoot out,” she said.
She also urged both Malaysian and Philippine governments to meet at the ASEAN level to address the claims over Sabah as well as civilian casualty the problem has been causing during the last month.