The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in The Philippines.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources, about the acquittal to Mr. Temogen Sahipa Cocoyâ Tulawie, a human rights defender and former provincial chairperson of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) in Mindanao, Sulu Province. His work involves the monitoring and documentation of human rights violations affecting Muslim communities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, especially in Sulu Province.
According to the information received, on July 20, 2015, the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 19 acquitted Mr. Tulawie of the charges of complicity in the bombing attack that occurred in Sulu in 2009 for lack of evidence. Mr. Tulawie had consistently denied any involvement in the bombing (see background information).
The Observatory welcomes the dismissal of the charges against Mr. Tulawie, and calls on the Philippine authorities to put an end to all ongoing acts of judicial harassment against other human rights defenders in the Philippines. However, the Observatory deeply regrets the arbitrary detention and the judicial harassment that Mr. Tulawie has been subjected to.
Mr. Tulawie was facing charges of multiple murderers and attempt murderers at the Regional Court of Jolo, Sulu Province, filed on July 22, 2009 (criminal case no. (07-09) 1648-3 and criminal case no. (07-09) 1649-3) against him and four others. The charges related to a bombing attack that took place in the municipality of Patikul, Sulu Province, on May 13, 2009. The evidence and warrant of arrest against Mr. Tulawie was based on the forced confessions of two of the accused, which they later recanted.
Mr. Tulawie was initially forced to hide due to fears that he would not be accorded a fair trial.
On June 13, 2011, the Supreme Court granted the motion he filed for transfer of venue to the RTC of Davao City. He argued that there were reasons to believe that his case would not be handled impartially if he was to be tried in the RTC of Jolo. In its decision, the Supreme Court acknowledged that there was an indication of actual and imminent threat to the life of the petitioner and his family, as well as his witnesses and that there was reason to believe that by conducting the trial in the RTC of Jolo could lead to a miscarriage of justice.
On January 13, 2012, at about 11:45 pm, Mr. Tulawie was arrested and was brought to Davao City Police Office in Camp Domingo Leonor, Davao City.
In August 2012, the case was ordered for transfer from Davao to the Manila RTC Branch 19.
On March 4 and 6, 2013, the hearing of the motion for bail filed by Mr. Tulawie was held at the Manila RTC Branch 19. During the hearing, the Prosecutor presented a total of seven witnesses, five from the military and police and two self-confessed conspirators of the March 13, 2009 bombing, Messrs. Sali Said and Mujibar Bongâ Alih Amon. Both witnesses were not included as accused nor were they mentioned as witnesses on the charge sheet against Mr. Tulawie.
Mr. Tulawie was accused by. Mujibar Bongâ Alih Amon of hiring him to assassinate Governor Tan but the police and military witnesses made no mention of Mr. Tulawie´s involvement in the bombing attack.
The Observatory wishes to thank all of the individuals and organizations that have taking action as a response to the urgent appeal and have written to the Filipino authorities on behalf of Mr. Temogen Cocoyâ Tulawie. No further action is currently required on your part concerning this case.
Geneva-Paris, September 21, 2015
The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.