DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/11 Nov) — An international group committed to defend human rights urged the Philippine government to drop all charges against Temogen Sahipa Tulawie, a human rights defender who went into hiding after Sulu authorities linked him to the May 2009 Sulu bombing.
Mary Lawlor, the director of the international group Frontline, said the charges against Tulawie were taken “on account of his work in the defence of human rights.”
In a petition addressed to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Lawlor asked the Philippine government to immediately drop all charges against Tulawie and honor the country’s earlier international commitment to protect and defend human rights.
Lawlor also asked the government to guarantee a free and fair trial for Tulawie, ensure adequate and effective security for Tulawie and all human rights defenders in the Philippines who are at risk and ensure that human rights defenders can still “carry out their work” in the country “without restrictions, reprisals including judicial harassment.”
Tulawie had earlier sent statements to the media that he was willing to face charges against him once he is assured of a free and fair trial.
Tulawie also asked authorities to transfer the trial outside of Sulu and Zamboanga provinces, where he said his “executioners and his judge are the same.”
Tulawie has been the provincial chair of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Society (CBCS), a coalition of Bangsamoro civil society in Sulu; and he also set up the local group Bawbug (Serve, Respect and Protect), which seeks to defend the rights of Moro communities affected by military operations in Sulu. He was very vocal against human rights violations committed by soldiers and visiting US troops against the Moro people in Sulu.
He was charged with attempted murder after two alleged witnesses linked him to the May 13, 2009 bombing in Patikul, Sulu but the witnesses later recanted and executed separate extrajudicial confessions.
The bombing incident wounded 12 people, including Sulu Governor Abdusakar Tan, but Tulawie denied any involvement of the bombing.
In June 2009, Tulawie filed a petition for certiorari at the Cagayan de Oro Court of Appeals questioning the jurisdiction of the regional state prosecutor of Region 9 to accept the complaints against him.
He also questioned the power of the Region 9 state prosecutor to designate the Zamboanga city prosecutor as the provincial prosecutor of Sulu to conduct preliminary investigation against him.
But when the warrant for his arrest was issued on October 5, 2009, he decided to go into hiding, fearing he could not be assured of a fair trial within the provinces of Zamboanga and Sulu.
In the petition, Frontline reminded the Philippine government of its international obligation to honor the international human rights law, of which the country has been signatory.
Lawlor particularly cited Article 9, Section 2 of the United Nations Declaration adopted by consensus by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998 and Section 2 of Article 12 which provides that the “state shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by competent authorities of everyone against any violence, threats, retaliation as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights.” (Germelina Lacorte / MindaNews)