KUALA LUMPUR: Three Filipino fishermen who alleged that they were “manhandled” by Malaysian maritime authorities on May 9 have filed a criminal complaint in Olongapo City, Philippines, at the office of the city prosecutor.
The complaint, according to the inquirer.net , was filed by Nelson Plamiano, Arlon Sandro and Teody Baisa, all residents of Subic Town, Zambales Province.
Briefly, they claim that about 20 men beat them up inside a Malaysian Navy ship. “We would like those Malaysian Navy men to be held criminally liable,” said Plamiano.
The Filipinos were reportedly handcuffed, slapped in the face, punched and kicked in the chest, and forced to kneel on the hot floor of the ship’s deck.
The fishermen were accompanied by lawyer Manuel Rosapapan, a former Olonapo-Zambales chapter president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
According to a Reuters report, dated May 24, the Malaysian Navy declined to comment on the alleged incident, the first of its kind involving the Philippines since 2012 when China and Vietnam were involved as well.
The news agency quoted the Philippine military as saying that the three fishermen were detained by a Malaysian naval patrol after finding them in territorial waters in the Spratly Islands. The fishermen were about 29 km southwest, on May 9, from Commodore Reef, one of nine similar territories held by the Philippines in the South China Sea.
The fishermen apparently tried to flee but were detained, after a brief chase, and handed over to Philippine troops stationed on Commodore Reef.
“The Western Command is saddened by the incident involving our fellow Filipinos,” said Captain Cherryl Tindog then in a statement. “The fishermen received medical treatment. They are in stable condition, except for some bruises.”
The Philippine military directed the news agency to the Foreign Ministry which did not respond to queries.
“Our Department of Foreign Affairs should talk to Malaysia about this incident, because hitting our fishermen was not part of any agreement,” said Jay Batongbacal, an expert in maritime law at the University of the Philippines. “It’s a violation of the informal code of conduct signed in Cambodia in 2002.”