The Philippine government on Friday sought access to the 10 followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III who were apprehended last Friday in Sabah, where deadly clashes between Malaysian forces and the Filipinos pressing ownership over the resource-rich territory is ongoing.
A note verbale or diplomatic note was sent this morning by the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Malaysian Embassy in Manila to convey the request and to ensure "humane treatment" for the Filipinos under its custody, Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez told a press briefing.
Hernandez said the request is pursuant to the Vienna Convention on consular relations.
Malaysian security forces launched an all-out offensive against the Filipinos to quell the intrusion that killed at least two dozen Kiram's supporters who entered Sabah's coastal town of Lahad Datu by boat on Feb. 12 to assert the Sultanate's ownership over the territory.
Kiram, whose sultanate once owned several islands in Mindanao and Northern Borneo, sent his followers to Sabah to reclaim their homeland as efforts to get it back from Malaysia has been relegated to the backburner by present and past Philippine presidents.
Kiram declared a unilateral ceasefire but said his men will remain on defensive mode. Malaysia rejected the temporary truce and demanded unconditional surrender of the Filipinos.
Kiram's forebears leased Sabah to a British company in the 1870's but was illegally annexed by Great Britain which then handed over the territory to Malaysia when it gained independence from the British Crown in 1963.
Hernandez said the Philippine government will continue to explore all avenues to reach a peaceful solution to the crisis and avoid further loss of lives.