Friday, March 15, 2013

Only 22 of 38 nabbed off Tawi-Tawi belong to sultanate 'army'

From InterAksyon (Mar 15): Only 22 of 38 nabbed off Tawi-Tawi belong to sultanate 'army'

(UPDATE - 3:17 p.m.) Only 22 of the 38 people arrested off Tawi-Tawi apparently as they returned from Sabah on Wednesday are members of the Royal Sulu Army, the spokesman for the Sulu sultanate said on Friday.

Abraham Idjirani, who is also the sultanate's secretary general, told reporters Datu Panglima Sabandal Edi Idris of Basilan led the members of the sultanate’s army who were intercepted in two boats by Philippine Navy ships Tawi early Wednesday.

Earlier, authorities said they found firearms on the boats and one of the passengers was wounded, apparently during fighting in Sabah between followers of the sultanate and Malaysian security forces.

Senior Superintendent Joselito Salido, Tawi-Tawi provincial police director, said they filed charges for illegal possession of firearms and violation of the election gun ban against the suspects on Thursday.

He said 11 firearms, six of these high-powered, were seized from the two boats.

He said they are also studying the possibility of suing them for "inciting to war," which President Benigno Aquino III said the sultanate's followers may have committed, in violation of the Constitution, when they went to Sabah to press their claim to the territory and ended up battling Malaysian security forces.

Idjirani said they will be sending a legal team to Tawi-Tawi to help their followers, although he added that the detainees, who are being held at Juan Magluyang Naval Base in Barangay Batubatu, Panglima Sugala, have been treated well.

Reporters who were briefly allowed into the base Thursday evening learned 14 of the detainees are from Basilan, 13 from Tubig Indanan, four from Jolo, four from Bongao, two from Sibutu and one from Zamboanga City.

Meanwhile, Idjirani is expected to appear before the National Bureau of Investigation Friday afternoon to honor a subpoena issued in relation to the government probe into the Sabah crisis.

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