DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 January) – Police and military intelligence operatives arrested early Saturday human rights defender Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie who was implicated in the May 13, 2009 bombing in Patikul, Sulu that injured 12 persons including Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan.
But Tulawie, who has repeatedly denied involvement in the bombing, told reporters from his detention cell at the Investigation and Detective Management Branch at Camp Domingo Leonor late Saturday afternoon that he is not evading the law, that he is here in Davao City to face the charges filed against him by Tan.
The Supreme Court in June last year granted Tulawie’s petition for a transfer of venue of the hearings from the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 3 in Jolo, Sulu to Davao City but the Sulu court has not forwarded the records to the Executive Judge of the RTC here despite the SC order.
“Hindi tayo nagtatago sa batas,” (I am not evading the law), Tulawie said, adding, he has repeatedly announced in media interviews, even on Facebook, that he was willing to turn himself in to face the charges here but not in Sulu where he alleged he cannot obtain fair trial.
“The problem is the Sulu court has not forwarded my case folder. If it had, this arrest would not have happened because I was really going to present myself in court and face the charges. I just do not want the trial in Sulu,” he said in Pilipino.
He said he came to Davao because he considers it a “neutral place” where Tan could not wield his influence.
Tulawie was also implicated in the August 5, 2010 bombing outside the arrivals area of the Zamboanga City airport. Two persons, including the alleged bomber, were killed and 22 others were injured in the blast that Tan claimed was intended for him.
Tulawie told reporters in an October 2010 interview that he was jogging at the People’s Park in Davao City on the day of the Zamboanga blast.
No charges were filed against Tulawie for the airport bombing. But he is facing charges of multiple frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder for the Sulu bombing in 2009.
Miscarriage of justice
In a resolution on June 13, 2011, the Supreme Court granted Tulawie’s petition for transfer of venue of the cases “to any court as this Court may deem convenient.” It said that there is an “indication of actual and imminent threat to the life of the petitioner and his family, as well as his witnesses,” and that continuing with the trial in Jolo, Sulu “can lead to a miscarriage of justice.”
The Supreme Court directed the clerk of court of Regional Trial Court Branch 3 in Jolo, Sulu to “forward the entire records” of the cases to the Office of the Executive Judge of the RTC in Davao City “for raffle of the cases among the courts in the station” and also directed the judge to whom the cases may be assigned “to hear and decide the cases with utmost dispatch.”
The Court also noted the December 16, 2010 letter of Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Etta Rosales seeking consideration of Tulawie’s request for transfer of venue.
Tulawie said “gusto nila doon ko harapin sa Sulu kasi kontrolado nila lahat” (they want me to face the charges in Sulu because they control everyone there).
Tan has filed a motion for reconsideration of the Supreme Court’s June 2011 resolution.
Mary Ann Arnado, secretary-general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus and one of the lawyers handling Tulawie’s case, said the police will present Tulawie to Executive Judge Pelagio Paguican on Monday morning for final determination of the venue of the case.
Arnado said that after receipt of the Supreme Court’s order in mid-August 2011, Tulawie, through counsel, approached Paquican to inform him Tulawie wants to turn himself and that the judge said to wait for the court records from Sulu for the immediate raffling of the case and the issuance of the commitment order.
Tulawie is a member of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society and Baugbog where he documented cases of human rights violations in the province of Sulu.
He is also a member of the Council of Elders of the Concerned Citizens of Sulu and was vocal against the declaration of a state of emergency in Sulu following the September 20, 2009 bombing on Eid’l Fitr. He also opposed Governor Tan’s creation of a Civilian Emergency Force which he said was a “private army.”
Tulawie told reporters late Saturday afternoon that the door of his house was forcibly opened by operatives who came at around 11:45 p.m. Friday. The operatives, in their accomplishment report, reckoned the time of arrest at 1 a.m. Saturday
Tulawie did not resist arrest.
He recalled he heard some commotion outside the main door of his house in Elenita Heights, Catalunan Grande so he turned on the lights and saw policemen entering, screaming “nasaan ang baril mo?” (where is your gun?)
Tulawie, who was with his sons, Iman, 17 and Amir, 13, replied he was unarmed. Amir recalls six members of the team entered the house.
Tulawie said a police officer read to him his warrant of arrest and told him everything will be alright if he cooperated.
The arresting team was composed of elements of the Regional Intelligence Division PRO 11 led by P. Supt. Michael John Dubria and 4th Special Action Battalion, PNP Special Action Force led by PSupt. Fernandeo Ortega, and the Military Intelligence Group 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula region).
Tulawie said that apart from forcibly opening his door, Ortega’s team did not search the house, did not threaten or point a gun at him.
“Ang dalawang anak ko hindi nagpanic. Maliban sa forced entry, mukhang maayos naman lahat” (My two sons did not panic. Except for the forced entry, everything was alright), he said.
From the house, Tulawie said he was brought to the Talomo police station and from there to the Southern Philippines Medical Center for medical check-up from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.
He was then brought to Camp Catitipan, the base of the Philippine National Police regional office and to Camp Domingo Leonor for detention.
Tulawie said there was an attempt to fly him to Zamboanga but his Davao City-based lawyers presented the Supreme Court’s June 2011 resolution regarding the transfer of venue of the cases to Davao City.
Lawyer Alberto Sipaco, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) regional director, went to the IDMB on Saturday on orders of CHR chair Rosales to check on Tulawie’s condition. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)