Groups want suspect in Sulu gov's ambush to surrender to President Aquino

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/11 October) — Groups assisting human rights defender-turned-fugitive Temogen Sahipa Tulawie are eyeing the possibility of his surrender to President Benigno Aquino III even as they are pushing for his trial outside of Zamboanga and Sulu to ensure fairness.

Raissa Jajurie, the Mindanao coordinator of the lawyers’ group Saligan Mindanao, said the group wanted Tulawie to surrender directly to the President because they could no longer trust local authorities to grant him protection.

Tulawie, who went into hiding on October 5 last year, said he is willing to face the charges against him only if he can be assured of fair trial and due process.

He allegedly tried to ambush Sulu Governor Sakur Tan on May 13 last year in Patikul Sulu and outside the arrival area of the Zamboanga City airport on August 5 this year. Twelve persons were reportedly injured in the first attack.

However, three of the four witnesses who had implicated have already recanted their statements, saying there was nothing “voluntary” in the extra-judicial confessions that they made and that the contents of the confessions were “false.”

Tulawie said even the conduct of the preliminary investigation against him was not fair, causing him to doubt whether he could still be accorded due process and a fair trial under the law, Jajurie told Davao reporters.

Saligan Mindanao, the Mindanao People’s Caucus and the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines said during the Kapehan sa SM that they are initiating a petition asking the Supreme Court to conduct an impartial investigation on Tulawie’s case, including the possible “abuse of authority” allegedly by the Regional Trial Court judge in Jolo, Sulu, who issued the warrant of arrest despite a pending petition for review earlier filed by Tulawie before the Department of Justice.

They also questioned the employment of US soldiers as the judge’s “security” and the use of a US helicopter to transport judges and prosecutors, who were allegedly housed within the camp of the Armed Forces of the Philippines inside US installations.

The groups asked the Philippine National Police to look into the CIDG-Zamboanga’s possible connivance with local officials in “pinning down Tulawie by accepting false testimonies from procured witnesses.”

Jajurie said the groups are asking the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to take custody of Tulawie and provide for his protection so that he could face the charges against him.

As a human rights activist, Tulawie organized the local group Bawbug, the Tausug term for  “serve, respect and protect” and has been an active member of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue in Sulu.

He led protest actions against the implementation of the Sulu Provincial Identification Card System in January 2008, which ordered the mandatory wearing of ID cards by Sulu citizens. He was also a vocal critic of the state of emergency proclaimed in the island province since March 31 last year by Tan.

He organized fact finding missions that documented human rights violations and other effects of militarization among Tausug communities in Sulu, which reportedly earned for him the ire of Sulu officials, including Tan.

The groups called on Tan to desist from harassing Tulawie, his family members and human rights defenders in Sulu. They also called on the governor to lift the state of emergency in Sulu and to investigate the reported human rights abuses.

In an earlier statement to the media, Tulawie described Jolo and Zamboanga authorities as having become his “judge and executioner” at the same time, rendering a fair trial impossible.

The Task Force Detainees of the Philippines has brought Tulawie’s case to the attention of the Asian Human Rights Commission, a Hong Kong-based human rights group.  (Germelina
Lacorte/Mindanews)