DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/10 June) –Groups belonging to the Free Cocoy Tulawie Movement have condemned Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan’s plan to run for governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) next year, saying the current reform efforts in the ARMM “will surely be put to waste if we turn this over to another ‘Ampatuan-like’ politician.”
The Free Cocoy Tulawie Movement (FCTM) in a statement dated June 9, said that while they applaud government’s move to include the governors of the five-province ARMM as observers in the GPH-MILF (Government of the Republic of the Philippines-Moro Islamic Liberation Front) peace talks in Kuala Lumpur, Tan’s presence is “anathema to the desired changes that we envision for the Bangsamoro people.”
Tan has been reported to be running for the top regional post. While he neither confirmed nor denied reports he would run for ARMM governor in May 2013, he told MindaNews in Kuala Lumpur in late May that his decision would depend on “the bosses upstairs.”
“Depende sa mga boss sa taas, depende kay Presidente pag sinabing takbo ako,” (It depends on the people upstairs, if the President says I run,” he told MindaNews while waiting for his turn to sit as observer in the peace talks at the State Room of the Palace of the Golden Horses hotel in Kuala Lumpur. .
He said he would run for the top regional post if backed by “a party with machinery.”
The FCTM statement described Tan as a “warlord and human rights violator,” and appealed to President Aquino “never to reinvent another Ampatuan.”
It also questioned Tan’s sincerity and moral standing to sit as an observer, claiming he is the “very cause of the state of unpeace in Sulu.”
Among the signatories of the FCTM statement are the Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace, Bawgbug, Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya, Women Asia Regional Network, . SOCSKSARGEN Worker’s Network and Women’s Initiative for Social Empowerment and Sister Arnold Maria Noel of the Missionary Sisters Servants (SSpS), an advocate of peace, human rights and interfaith dialogue.
The FCTM blames Tan for allegedly persecuting Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie, a human rights defender in Sulu whom Tan accused of and sued for having plotted to kill him in 2009.
Tulawie was implicated in the May 13, 2009 bombing in Patikul, Sulu that injured 12 persons including Tan.
A member of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society and Bawgbug in Sulu where he documented cases of human rights violations, Tulawie 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’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to transfer the venue of the cases “to any court as this Court may deem convenient.” The high court granted the petition 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.”
Arrested in mid-January this year in Davao City, Tulawie is presently detained in Ma-a City Jail here, awaiting trial. Tan petitioned the Supreme Court on January 25 to move the venue to Manila, claiming Davao City is “hostile ground” because Tulawie allegedly wields influence in the city.
The FCTM said Tan is “the classic example of the status quo that is already unacceptable. Thus, parading him to Malaysia (as an observer in the peace talks) is a big insult to the international community who are supporting the peace talks.”
“In Sulu, militarization, proliferation of private armies, warrantless arrests, deprivation of civil liberties, massacres of innocent civilians, gang rapes, and sexual violence became widespread under Sakur Tan’s administration. He implemented the ID card system in the guise of helping military authorities combat terrorism but which was heavily protested for being discriminatory to culture and religion, especially among Muslims. In blatant violation of the constitution, he illegally declared a State of Emergency in Sulu, which resulted in the arrests of several innocent civilians,” the statement read.
President Aquino, the FCTM said, had promised the Filipino people to dismantle private armies. “If the President is indeed serious about this, he should immediately disarm Sakur Tan’s thousands of private armies in Sulu. Concretely, he must immediately revoke EO 546 that allows Local Chief Excutives to arm civilians.”
It also called on the Presidential Adviser on the Preace Process and Department of Interior and Local Government to “support the reform efforts in the ARMM and stop patronizing Sakur Tan.”
“They should unmask and expose Sakur Tan rather than paint him as a sheep, when he is clearly the remnant of warlordism that up to now terrorizes people in Sulu. A wolf hiding in a sheepskin is still a wolf,” it said.
The FCTM recommended to the OPAPP and DILG to “declare an audit on the Internal Revenue Allotment and all government funds released to the provincial government of Sulu; conduct a Congressional inquiry on the human rights situation in Sulu; and for the Ombudsman to investigate Tan’s Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth. (MindaNews)