Actor Robin Padilla visits detained Tulawie, his “best friend in peace advocacy”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/06 March) — Movie actor Robin Padilla visited Tuesday afternoon detained human rights defender Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie of Sulu to express his support for his “best friend sa advocacy ng kapayapaan” who, he asserted, could not have done what Sulu Governor Sakur Tan had accused him of doing.

The 41-year old Tulawie, whom Padilla also described as “Pag-asa ng Sulu” (Hope of Sulu),  is  facing charges of  multiple frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder for the May 13, 2009 bombing in Patikul, Sulu that injured 12 persons including the governor, an allegation he has repeatedly denied.

Citing threats to his life, Tulawie petitioned the Supreme Court for a transfer of venue of the hearings from the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 3 in Jolo, Sulu to Davao City. The high court granted the petition in June but the Sulu court took so long in forwarding the records to the Executive Judge of the RTC here.

Tulawie  was arrested here late evening of January 13 but no raffling of the case could be done by the RTCH in the absence of the court records from Sulu. The records finally arrived last week and the case is now under Judge Virginia Europa of RTC Branch 11.

Citing security considerations, Tulawie’s lawyers filed a motion in court Tuesday to commit him to the detention cell at the Investigation and Detective Management Branch at Camp Domingo Leonor where he has been detained since his arrest, instead of the city jail in Ma-a.

Governor Tan on January 25 petitioned the Supreme Court for a change in venue of the trial from Davao City to Manila. He said he considers Davao City “hostile ground,” claiming Tulawie  wields influence in the city.

Tulawie alleged Tan’s petition for change of venue was part of the governor’s “delaying tactics.”

“You don’t belong here”

Wearing tactical shades, white denim jeans and a white polo shirt on whose left pocket were printed the words “Goodwill Ambassador for Peace” of the GOP-UN Act for Peace program, Padilla arrived at the DCPO at around 1:25 p.m., paid a courtesy call on the city police director before proceeding to the cell where Tulawie and six others are detained, shook Tulawie’s hand between the iron bars and said, “Hindi ka bagay dito, ‘tol” (You don’t belong here, brother).

Pointing to the pocket on his shirt, he told Tulawie in Pilipino: “I deliberately used this shirt because I would not be an Ambassador of Peace without your help.”

“Answered prayer,” Tulawie said of the support he has received not only from Padilla but from various individuals and groups around the country and the world.

Padilla, a devout Muslim,  smiled as soon as he saw Sister Arnold Maria Noel, who also came to visit Tulawie. Padilla met the nun in Manila last Friday when he hosted an informal forum with the media and Manila-based civil society representatives on the Tulawie case at the Arya Persian Restaurant in Greenhills, San Juan, attended also by Commission on Human Rights chair Etta Rosales.

There, he said Cocoy is a good man and explained in Pilipino that “I believe many deserve to be jailed in this country but I am certain that Cocoy is not one of them.”

“He is the face of change,” he said.

“Chilling effect”

Sister Arnold  told reporters that Tulawie did not deserve to be jailed because he was “simply exposing the truth” about the graft and corruption and human rights violations in Sulu. She said his arrest sends a “chilling effect” to the whole nation.

Padilla was informed Tulawie would be temporarily transferred to the Investigation Division office  nearby so they could properly talk. Before proceeding there, he shared with reporters how he became friends with Tulawie, how he and his children would stay in Tulawie’s house in Sulu as Tulawie and his children would also stay in his house in Fairview, Quezon City.

He said Tulawie could contribute much in the ongoing reforms in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

After the interview,  Padilla entered the Investigation Division office where he spent the next hour talking with Tulawie, his wife Musa and sons Iman, 17 and Amir, 13, interrupted only by requests by police personnel for souvenir photos.

“Hold your head up high”

To Amir, he said, “maraming tatay dyan na walang ipinaglalaban. Itong tatay mo may pinaglalaban. Itaas mo noo mo,” (there are many fathers out there who are not fighting for a cause. Your father is fighting for a cause. Hold your head up high).

Padilla said that if it’s possible for Tulawie to be placed under house arrest, he would serve as guarantor.

He said he has nothing against Governor Tan, and that in fact his wedding godfather is Nabil Tan, the governor’s brother. Addressing the governor, he said, “ang pakiusap ko lamang po sa ating mahal nakapatid ay hindi po ako naniniwala na magagawa ni Cocoy yun. Partner  ko ito eh.. Naniniwala kami sa mapayapang rebolusyon. Hindi kami naniniwala sa rebolusyon na magpatay ng tao.  Luma na yan eh. Pinaglumaan na ng panahon yan eh…(my message  to our beloved brother is I do not believe Cocoy could do what you accused him of doing. He’s my partner… We believe in peaceful revolution. We do not believe in a revolution that kills people. That’s passé).

He said a real Muslim “fights for his rights and the rights of other people but not to the point of killing a person where dialogue is still possible.”

Reacting to Padilla’s message, Tan told MindaNews: “why should I listen to him? What does he know? Who are his friends?”

At around 2:50 p.m., Padilla escorted Tulawie back to his cell, even entering it to shake the hands of  his friend’s cellmates. He posed for souvenir photos and, recalling his four year- imprisonment for illegal possession of firearms in the 1990s, conversed with them about life in jail. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)