BONGAO, Tawi-Tawi (Vera Files via MindaNews/13 April)— The 32 Liberal Party candidates and their supporters who were detained in Sabah for 72 hours have been released, reached Tawi-Tawi Thursday night and will be going back to Languyan Friday night.
Governor Sadikul A. Sahali, LP’s provincial chairman in Tawi-Tawi, said the 32 who were arrested by Malaysian Police in Sandakan Monday were released shortly after 6 p.m Thursday, and arrived in Barangay Taganak in the Turtle Islands at 9 p.m Thursday.
Languyan mayoral candidate Romel Matba, his uncle and vice mayoral candidate Amman Matba, and the 30 others who were detained and released will be heading straight to their town, about 18 hours by motorboat from Taganak.
The governor said Malaysian Police and navy boats escorted the group as they left Sandakan on board the vessel ML Sheralyn.
The Malaysian Star reported Monday that the 32 were arrested “about 12 nautical miles from the east coast Lahad Datu district at 2 p.m. Monday” and were “armed with firearms and machetes trying to enter Sabah illegally form southern Philippines.”
Matba, his partymates and supporters were however were just following gubernatorial bet Nurbert Sahali’s campaign trail. They were with a police escort who was armed.
Nurbert, the incumbent governor’s son, was scheduled to campaign in the Turtle Islands with several of his partymates and supporters, including Matba’s group. He went to Taganak a day ahead of Matba’s group.
Geronima, Matba’s wife, said strong winds and big waves carried their hired motorboat to Malaysian territory.
The governor said Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario coordinated with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak regarding the release of Matba and company.
He said he was told that Razak ordered a Malaysian general to fly to Sandakan and have everyone released by Thursday.
LP members left Bongao for Taganak Sunday afternoon and were expected to arrive after 14 hours. Their motorboat, however, was found empty at the Sandakan port.
Sahali said the LP members were treated well. (Babylyn Kano-Omar/Vera Files)