CARMEN, North Cotabato (MindaNews/07 October) – He’s wanted for allegedly trying to ambush the governor of Sulu in Patikul town on May 13 last year and outside the arrival area of the Zamboanga City airport on August 5 this year but Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie says he had nothing to do with both.
A warrant for his arrest for “multiple frustrated murder (ten were injured in the May 2009 blast) with use of explosive under RA 9615” was served in his residence in Sulu on October 5 last year. On the same day, Tulawie, who was in Zamboanga City, left for other parts of Mindanao and has not seen his family since, he said.
Exactly ten months later, on August 5, when his name figured again as a suspect in a blast that killed two persons and injured 22 others outside the arrivals area of the airport in Zamboanga City and Sulu Governor Sakur Tan claimed he was the principal target, Tulawie said he had nothing to do with it and was in fact jogging at the People’s Park in Davao City, he told reporters Wednesday, October 6.
He said he fled Sulu because “in the Philippines, you are presumed guilty until proven innocent instead of presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
“Wala akong laban sa Sulu” (I cannot fight for justice in Sulu), he said, claiming he “cannot afford to avail of the services of the prosecutors.”
He said he did not also want the conflict between him and the governor to expand into a major family feud, given that some of Tan’s brothers are “parang kapatid din namin” (like our brothers).
He said justice is elusive in Sulu and several cases have been left unattended “including the gang rapes in 2009.”
Tulawie, who has been with the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) since 2006 and Baugbog since 2000, where he documented cases of human rights violations perpetrated by the government.
In 2009, he served as team leader of the Task Force ICRC tasked to help facilitate the release of three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) who were abducted just outside the provincial jail in January.
He said he was vocal against the declaration of a state of emergency over Sulu following the September 20, 2009 bombing on Eid’l Fitr and the formation of a Civilian Emergency Force (CEF).
Tulawie told reporters he is just awaiting the results of a petition for review he filed before the Department of Justice, given that two witnesses who earlier implicated him in the May 2009 attempted ambush on the governor – Hadzmar Tamano and Fahad Hasan — had issued another affidavit on September 13, 2010, retracting what they earlier said and claiming they signed the earlier affidavit without reading the contents.
Tulawie also sought a change of venue for the hearings filed before the Department of Justice before coming out in the open. “I am willing to surface,” he said, adding “harapin ko yan” (I’m going to face that).
He said human rights workers in Sulu are being told “baka magiging Cocoy ka” (you might become another Cocoy) to scare them and silence them.
In an open letter dated October 5, 2010, Tulawie said “By making a case out of me, the Sulu local government has so far been relatively successful in their tactics to shut people’s voices from speaking out and having a take on what is right and wrong in their own community. But so long as there are Tausugs who know believe in the sanctity of Life, the government can never debauch the very purpose of its existence — to protect its people. There’s always one out of ten souls who dare and resist to be gagged and mummed and they serve as that sliver of light all throughout our struggle. With that, I cannot say that the Voldemorts of Sulu local government are wholly successful in their attempt to silence us.”
Tulawie said Sulu is “possibly the vaguest or most complicated thing one would ever encounter” as a human rights worker. “HR workers have to battle against the damaging consequences of governance tailored to suit the vested interests of those in power — autocracy and anarchy combined. The parasitic nature of both is out there ruining the lives of our common people. The leaders and followers are caught in a corrupted ‘Lord-and-Slave’ mindset where the autocratic Lord sanctions the lawlessness of its followers cultivating a medieval attitude of shamelessness known to any man. As a result, everyone becomes a warlord,” he said.
He told reporters “Mabuti pa sa Maguindanao yung Ampatuan lang ang warlord. Doon sa Sulu, marami” (It’s better in Maguindanao. The Ampatuans are the only warlord. In Sulu, there are many).
Tan could not be reached for comment. But he told reporters after the airport blast that he was likely the target, claiming he saw a man with a backpack approaching him but before he got nearer, he was blown off. The man was later identified as Reynaldo Apilado, a carpenter and construction worker and also a former member of the Civilian Volunteer Organization in Maasin.
The Associated Press on August 5 said Tan suggested his political rivals could be connected to terrorists but did not elaborate. The AP quoted him as saying, “I have received intelligence reports that I would be bombed again, in Zamboanga or Sulu or Manila. Not only bombed, they may even use a rocket-propelled grenade,” he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)