Tulawie returned to Davao; Gov Tan says “I leave it to the courts’

(PENANG, Malaysia) – “I leave it to the courts,” Sulu Governor Sakur Tan said upon learning that human rights activist Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie’s transport to Sulu to face charges there was stopped by the Supreme Court.

Tulawie, who as arrested in Davao City nearly midnight on January 13 was flown to Zamboanga City noon of  January 17 noon en route to the provincial jail in Sulu but the Supreme Court ordered his return to Davao City in accordance with its June 2011 resolution granting Tulawie’s petition to transfer the venue of the trial of his cases from the Regional Trial Court Branch 3 in Jolo, Sulu, to the RTC in Davao City.

Tulawie is facing charges of multiple frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder in connection with a roadside bombing that injured 12 persons in Sulu in September 2009, including Governor Tan.

“I leave it to the courts,”  Tan, who is attending a “Consolidation for Peace for Mindanao” seminar here since Monday,  told MindaNews.

On Tuesday, when Tulawie was flown to Zamboanga City en route to Sulu, Tan told MindaNews, “from my end, he will be very, very safe.”

He said Tulawie’s detention in Sulu will be a “good signal to the people that someone from a very influential family is not exempt from the law.”

Tan repeatedly said Tulawie would be safe in the Sulu jail “from my end,” adding, “di naman ako sira ulo” to do him harm.

But he also acknowledged,  “unless may mag sabotahe,” claiming Tulawie has several enemies in Sulu.

In his January 17 letter to  Executive Judge Pelagio Paguican of the Regional Trial Court in Davao City, Deputy Court Administrator Raul Bautista Villanueva of the Supreme Court  said the order of Judge Betlee Ian Barraquias to transfer Tulawie to Jolo, Sulu was contrary to the June 13, 2011 decision of the Third Division of the Supreme Court ordering the transfer of venue of Tulawie’s cases from Jolo to Davao City and that the Philippine National Police regional chief, Supt. Michael Dobrea be directed to “cease in further complying with the order of Judge Barraquias.”

“ Likewise, be advised that the Motion for Reconsideration of the above Resolution had already been acted upon and has apparently been denied. Thus, with more reason that Judge Barraquias has no authority to issue his supposed Order,” Villanueva said.

He directed Paguican to “inform the police or jail custodians of Mr. Tulawie that any Order contrary to the Resolution dated June 13, 2011 of the Third Division of the Supreme Court cannot be implemented” and that if action had been taken, to advise Dobrea to “cease in further complying with the order of Judge Barraquias and any steps taken by them or any jail officer for that matter should no longer be carried out.”

On the same day Villanueva wrote Paguican, he also wrote Peter Eisma, Executive Judge of the RTC in Zamboanga City informing him about Barraquias’ order and directing him to “see to it that the custody of Mr. Tulawie be retained in Davao City and the transfer of his custody from Davao City to Jolo, Sulu cannot be just carried out.”

“Kindly coordinate with the police and jail authorities in Zamboanga City regarding the matter and for purposes of immediately returning Mr. Tulawie to his custodians in Davao City if he will be passing by Zamboanga City on his way to Jolo, Sulu,” Villanueva wrote.

Tulawie told reporters from his detention cell in Davao City on January 14 that he was not evading the law and that he had repeatedly announced in media interviews, even on Facebook, that he was willing to turn himself in to face the charges but not in Sulu where he alleged he could not 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 was in Davao because he considers it a “neutral place” where Tan could not wield his influence.

In its resolution on June 13, 2011,  the Supreme Court granted Tulawie’s petition for transfer of venue of the cases saying 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.”

Tan said he has not received a copy of the denial of his motion for reconsideration on the transfer of venue of Tulawie’s case. On the return of Tulawie back to Davao City from Zamboanga, Tan said he would “leave it to the courts.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)