Retracts earlier certainty Agbimuddin fled to Sulu
MALAYSIAN security officials are not discounting the possibility that Agbimuddin Kiram, a crown prince of the Sultanate of Sulu, may still be in the state of Sabah in northeastern Borneo despite their earlier certainty that he had returned to the Philippines earlier this week.
“We will still continue operations and we will catch him if he is still here,” Sabah police commissioner Hamza Taib was quoted as saying by Malaysia’s The Star newspaper in an evening press conference on Saturday.
Earlier Saturday, Hamza said they were certain Kiram fled to Simaunul island in Tawi-Tawi with at least three other people sometime on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The Malaysian intelligence report prompted Malaysian military chief Zulkifeli Zin to say Kiram “has abandoned his men and fled to his homeland,” , but Abraham Idjirani, spokesman of the House of Kiram, denied the claim and insisted Agbimuddin was still in Sabah.
Idjirani said in an interview on dzBB that Agbimuddin called before 6 a.m. of Saturday to belie the claim of Malaysian authorities.
“Look at the SIM card I am using,” Idjirani quoted Agbimudding as saying, indicating that the cell phone number showed that the call was made from Sabah.
But Idjirani admitted that the size of the group has been cut down to about 170 after about 30 others were intercepted in Tawi-Tawi last week.
“Even so, it does not matter to me,” Hamza said. “We have begun investigations under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act and we will compile evidence to extradite him to Malaysia to face charges... We will deal with him according to our laws.”
However, the Philippines and Malaysia do not have an extradition treaty and this was the reason why Kuala Lumpur refused to extradite suspected pyramid scam mastermind Manuel Amalilio, purportedly a relative of Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman and Malaysia Foreign Minister Anifah Aman.
Amalilio, through the Aman Futures group, allegedly defrauded thousands of investors in the Visayas and Mindanao for an estimated P12 billion in a fraudulent investment scam. He fled to Sabah when charges were filed against him by the Department of Justice.
However, the Department of Foreign Affairs recommended the deferment of Amalilio’s repatriation after Kiram and more than 200 supporters of the Sulu Sultanate landed in Sabah to renew the sultanate’s claim on the territory.
“That’s probably one of the unintended consequences of the acts of the Kiram group,” said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
Government lawyers were bound for Kuala Lumpur last week for a meeting with their Malaysian counterparts to work for Amalilio’s repatriation but the DFA asked that the meeting be postponed “because of the situation in Sabah.”
De Lima nevertheless gave assurance that all efforts are being made to repatriate Amalilio, who is detained in Malaysia after he was sentenced to a two-year jail term for violating a passport law.
Meanwhile, Malaysian security forces continued with their mopping up operations and said there were no signs Kiram’s men were still in Sabah. “We have stationed a team there to make sure they do not enter the area again,” Hamza said.
Kiram and his 200 followers entered Sabah on February 9 and holed up in the remote village of Kampung Tanduo in Lahad Datu town, but Malaysian forces staged an assault on March 5 that sent the group to scatter in smaller groups. Malaysian authorities said there were less than 50 of Kiram’s followers still in Lahad Datu.