HIS EXCELLENCY BENIGNO SIMEON AQUINO III
Republic of the Philippines
Dear Mr. President:
Greetings of Peace and Justice!
We come to you with a great sense of urgency and concern over the plight of our colleague in the human rights movement, MR. TEMOGEN “COCOY” TULAWIE who is a long standing human rights defender in the Province of Sulu. We have known the human rights work of Mr. Tulawie over the last 10 years and we have seen how he courageously took up the cudgel of justice, rule of law and human rights in his small embattled island. In highly militarized areas in Mindanao such as in Sulu and Maguindanao where the rule of law is taken over by the rule of warlords and private armies, the price of human rights is very very high – human rights defenders in these areas pay for it with their lives and freedom. Such is what had happened in the Maguindanao massacre, such is what is happening to Mr. Tulawie now.
Among other invaluable contributions to the struggle for human rights defense in the islands of Sulu, Mr. Tulawie took the frontline in resisting warlordism and military rule when, with the support of human rights groups and civil society organizations in the province, Colonel Natalio Ecarma, Commanding Officer of the 3rd Marine Brigade stationed in Sulu and the Provincial Governor of Sulu withdrew the imposition of an ID system in January 2008. The issued IDs were seen by the residents of Sulu as an insult to their culture and religion, and is part of the religious profiling that has been on-going in the name of “war against terror”. Sulu residents also raised the concern that the military enforcement of the ID cards likens the province of Sulu to a “garrison state”. Mr. Tulawie also opposed the putting of the province under Emergency Rule and organized several human rights campaigns, including the conduct of fact-finding missions and the expose of the series of gang rapes in the islands which pointed to warlords’ sons and members of the Civilian Emergency Forces (private armies turned civilian armed forces under the employ of the Governor of Sulu) as perpetrators.
All this earned the ire of powerful politicians in the province, not least of whom Governor Abdusakur Tan who initiated a legal persecution against Mr. Tulawie. Governor Tan had warned civil society groups against human rights reporting saying that this is detrimental to the image of Sulu. On July 22, 2009, he filed a case of Multiple Frustrated Murder and Attempted Murder at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 3 of Jolo against Mr. Tulawie, alleging that the latter was involved in the bombing incident of May 13, 2009, which wounded 12 persons including the Governor. Witnesses produced by the Governor had now retracted and admitted to a forced confession and one had been found dead after a reported jailbreak. Mr. Tulawie, on the other hand, had to go into hiding after a warrant of arrest had been secured against him by the court.
Mr. Tulawie is prepared and willing to face the charges filed against him. Considering who he is up against, he is fearful for his safety and that of his family once he comes out in the open, and he needs adequate protection to safeguard their lives and security . Mr. Tulawie strongly believes that now is the most opportune time to face these charges against him, at the time of your administration and with your policies on strengthening the Justice Department, eliminating extrajudicial killings, broadly supporting just peace and giving redress to decades of neglect of the Moro and other peoples of Mindanao.
We believe that the exigency and magnitude of this case merit the attention of the highest official of the land. We are, therefore, respectfully appealing to your Office to intervene in the case filed against Temogen Tulawie. We believe that it is only you, Mr. President, who can afford him the necessary protection against the ongoing legal and judicial harassment against his person. We also appeal to your presidential powers to grant and issue an executive clemency that will make Temogen Tulawie a free man again.
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