Sulu mayor in Duterte’s “validated” list passed away in 2014

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /08 August) – President Rodrigo Duterte’s supposed “validated” list of persons allegedly involved in the illegal drugs trade includes a former mayor of Talipao town in Sulu who had passed away two years ago.

Benhajar Tulawie, listed as “Benahar Tulawie” died at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig on April 14, 2014.

Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie, chair of the Bawbug Advocates for Peace and Human Rights and nephew of Benhajar, wrote President Rodrigo Duterte a letter dated August 8, to inform him his uncle is dead and to urge him to conduct a “high-level, full blown investigation of the drug apparatus in Sulu and to immediately neutralize the local chief executives and police officers who are involved.”

“Mr. President, I wish to inform you that Benhajar Tulawie is already dead,” Tulawie wrote. A copy of the death certificate issued by the City of Taguig was attached to the letter copy furnished Philippine National Police Director-General Ronald dela Rosa.

“Because of the ultimatum order to respond within 24 hours, I have momentarily attached a printout of an electronic copy because the original copy is still in Sulu,” Tulawie wrote.

Tulawie personally delivered the letter for the President to the office here of Duterte’s personal assistant, Secretary Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.

Tulawie said his uncle was a member of the Regional Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, representing the first district of Sulu, at the time of his death.

He said Benhajar served as mayor of Talipao town some 20 years ago, “long before we even heard of shabu.”

No record `

Following the 24-hour deadline Duterte gave those whose names he announced early Sunday morning to report to their superiors, Tulawie said surviving family members of Benhajar went to the police director of Sulu at 1 p.m. on Sunday “to show good faith and full support to your campaign against drugs and to shed light on the accusation against Benhajar Tulawie.”

The Tulawie family also gave the police director a copy of Benhajar’s death certificate.

Tulawie said the police chief confirmed that Benhajar “has no record on drugs with their office.”

“With all due respect and utmost desire for you to succeed in your campaign against drugs, I am very curious why of all the known druglords, pushers and users in Sulu, why were you fed the name of a dead person?”

“If the local police in Sulu does not have any drug-related record of Benhajar Tulawie, how did his name land into your already validated list?” Tulawie asked.

“Shabulized” Sulu

He said Sulu is one ‘shabulized’ territory “that is yet to feel the whip of your crackdown.”

Tulawie agrees with the President that the drug issue is closely linked to kidnappings. Kidnappings are prevalent in Sulu “and who could be most interested to have these problems resolved other than the Tausug themselves?”

In support of the President’s war on drugs, “I humbly request you to conduct a high-level, full-blown investigation of the drug apparatus in Sulu and to immediately neutralize the local chief executives and police officers who are involved.”

Aside from kidnapping, the use of illegal drugs has also been blamed on other forms of criminality in Sulu, including gang rape.

Tulawie narrated that in 2009, young college students were abducted and raped by a gang of young boys who were high on drugs, a case he personally documented but the filing of criminal charges did not prosper “because the rapists involved were the sons of powerful politicians in Sulu.”

He said his expose of the gang rape and his human rights advocacy “caused me harassments and direct threats against my life that forced me to leave Sulu and seek refuge in Davao City” where he said he experienced that Duterte’s leadership is “not hostile to human rights defenders like me and for that I owe you a debt of gratitude.”

Tulawie said the war on drugs and human rights “are not diametrically opposed and in fact could rightly work together.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)