A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission written and prepared by Stewart Sloan and Danilo Reyes the Desk Officer for the Philippines.
PHILIPPINES: The government must take full responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of Temogen 'Cocoy' Tulawie
In September 2012 the Supreme Court of the Philippines approved the transfer of the trial of Temogen 'Cocoy' Tulawie for murder charges from Davao City to Manila City; and at the time of writing he is now awaiting trial in Manila.
Prior to this, in June 2011 the Supreme Court also granted the petition of the Cocoy's lawyers to transfer the trial from Regional Trial Court of Sulu to that of Davao City. The reason behind the petition was the very real threat to his life by agents acting on behalf of the governor of Sulu, Sakur Tan.
Temogen 'Cocoy' Tulawie was arrested on January 13, 2012 in Davao City in connection with a bombing and charged with multiple frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder. He was forced to confess under torture and despite four sworn and notarized statements confirming his alibi the process of his trial has continued.
Cocoy's counsel applied for a Writ of Amparo which was granted. A Writ of Amparo is applied for when there is serious concern for the safety of the person named therein. In our our appeal: AHRC-UAU-031-2012, we stated:
"The threat on Tulawie’s life is very real. Previously, the Court of Appeals itself granted his petition for a Writ of Amparo, an order which provided judicial protection before his arrest in January 2012. Thus, their new order completely disregards the earlier one; firstly, the grounds on which it agreed to have his case transferred from Jolo, Sulu to Davao City; secondly, the decision reached in his petition for the Writ of Amparo proving the risk on his life."
In September 2012, the Supreme Court of the Philippines issued another order, this time granting the petition of the complainant, Governor Tan, to transfer the trial of the case from Davao to Manila. This order, however, is in principle contradictory to the earlier order of the SC granting Cocoy's petition transferring the trial from Sulu to Davao City due to security concerns.
By their acceptance of the application for the Writ of Amparo the Supreme Court has quite obviously accepted that there is a very real threat to Cocoy's life. The threat on Cocoy's life once transferred to Manila cannot be taken lightly. It is believed that Abu Sayyaf suspects incarcerated in the same facility with Cocoy will carry out the instructions of Tan. The question must then be asked as to why they have granted this transfer which was done at the request of the counsel for Governor Sakur Tan.
It is disappointing that despite the gravity of the threat to Cocoy, neither the court nor the prison officials had taken full responsibility for the safety and well being of 'Cocoy' Tulawie.
The Asian Human Rights Commission appeals to President Aquino to ensure protection for Cocoy. This can be done by giving orders to the Department of Justice (DoJ), which has oversight jurisdiction and control of prisons, for them to ensure that Cocoy's security and safety is adequately ensured. Should Cocoy be murdered, the court will have not only denied his personal right to defend himself, but also to give justice for those who were wounded in the bomb attack. The AHRC is confident that once Cocoy is afforded with due process and fair trial, the proceedings would prove his innocence from the fabricated charges. However, if the threat of assassination is allowed to proceed then Cocoy's guilt or innocence will be a moot point and the government and Supreme Court will have to live with their decisions and lack of action in saving an innocent life.
For further reading please see: PHILIPPINES: Trial of falsely charged Sulu activist now in Manila
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.