In a phone interview aired on GMA News TV’s “Balitang Pilipinas,” Princess Jacel Kiram said their guerrilla forces were supplied with food and water.
“‘Yung nabalita pong umalis d’yan po ay mga two weeks ago, per batches. And I think, nakabuo na sila ‘dun ng 400 sa isang group and they were able to establish a guerrilla base in Sabah,” she said, adding the group was in the towns of Semporna and Lahad Datu.
Jacel bared this amid Malaysia’s claim that at least 35 armed men were shot dead by Philippine forces while trying to enter Sabah. Neither Jacel nor Philippine authorities, however, were able to confirm this.
Malaysian security forces launched last month an operation to take over an area in Sabah occupied by about 180 followers of Kiram. The Filipinos sailed from Mindanao to press Kiram’s claim to Sabah.
Kiram, 74, claims to be the heir to the Islamic sultanate of Sulu, which once controlled parts of the southern Philippines and a portion of Borneo.
Jacel said those who were able to slip to Sabah were Sulu residents whose family members were either killed or maltreated by Malaysian authorities.
“Ito lamang ay reaction ng mga tao, especially the Tausug. Grabe ‘yung pangyayari in Sabah. Grabe rin ‘yung pagtrato sa mga Filipinos in Sabah, wherein they want to give justice to whatever happens,” Jacel said.
PHL military doubtful
The military, however, could not immediately confirm this.
“I cannot possibly confirm nor deny. Siya lang pwede mag-confirm,” said Col. Rodrigo Gregorio, spokesperson of the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command, in a phone interview.
“Basta sa loob ng Sabah, hindi natin alam ‘yan. Mga haka-haka lang,” Gregorio added.
Lt. Commander Gregory Pavic of the Philippine Navy said it is unlikely that 400 men were able to slip into Sabah, stressing the ongoing security patrol by the Philippine military.
“Sa ngayon po, tuloy-tuloy ‘yung aming pag-conduct ng security patrol. Wala po kaming na-intercept regarding ‘dun sa tinatawag nilang mga 400,” he said in a separate phone interview. — KBK, GMA News