The Philippine government said on Thursday that it would file a diplomatic complaint against Malaysia following reports that Malaysian authorities had committed violations of human rights against Filipinos, both documented and undocumented, working in Sabah.
A Malacanang official cited the case of Resty Rosales, a Filipino working as an architect and project manager in Kota Kinabalu, who was among the 311 Filipinos rounded up by Malaysian authorities on Jan. 21.
Rosales’ case was brought to Malacanang’s attention by his brother Florante Rosales, a broadcaster for radio station dzRH.
In their exchange of messages through Facebook, Resty told his brother that most of the detained Filipinos were already getting sick.
“We were like packed sardines jailed together. Some of the women were raped by jail guards,” said Resty, whose head was hit like a cymbal by the Malaysian guards.
Resty said even documented Filipinos like him were being detained and forced to lie that they do not have their working papers.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma said the government will not tolerate violations of basic human rights being perpetrated upon Filipinos in Malaysia.
“We just need to get the specifics so the Department of Foreign Affairs can verify these serious allegations,” Coloma said.
Resty has already been released by Malaysian authorities in Sabah after his employer came to pick him up and vouch for him.
Hours after Rosales relayed his brother’s plight to Coloma, the two met with Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Ed Malaya who is currently in the country.
During the meeting, Malaya assured Rosales that the embassy would file a complaint in Kuala Lumpur.
But a diplomatic source said the two officials were only quick to act because the Filipino involved was a brother of a media practitioner.
When Rosales’ radio station tried to call Malaya for a follow-up interview, the ambassador declined, saying: “What can we do? That is their procedure and we are just visitors in their country.”
Resty’s story contradicted the statement of the DFA on Wednesday that no Filipinos have been arrested in the crackdown against illegal foreign workers in Malaysia.
There are about 700,000 overseas Filipino workers in Malaysia, including those in Sabah.
The crackdown by the Malaysia government against illegal foreign workers, dubbed “Ops Bersepadu” was announced by the Malaysian Foreign Ministry on January 10.
Meanwhile, the DFA has raised the alert level from 1 (Precautionary Phase) to 2 (Restriction Phase) for Bangkok and surrounding areas which have been placed under a 60-day state of emergency by the Thai Government.
In an advisory, the Philippine embassy in Bangkok reiterated its call on all Filipinos with essential travel plans and those residing in Thailand to avoid the rally sites and large gatherings.
The embassy also advised them to refrain from participating in the protest or other political activities.
“Everyone is advised to continue exercising extreme caution and vigilance and to closely monitor developments,” the embassy stated.
While there has been an effort to maintain a state of normalcy in the Thai capital, the situation remains fluid and volatile particularly in anti-government protest areas.
The Philippine embassy there assured that it is ready to extend necessary assistance to all Filipino nationals in Thailand.