PHILIPPINES: Petition asking President Aquino to take custody of a falsely charged activist 

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is forwarding a petition asking President Benigno Aquino III and his officials to consider taking into their custody Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie, a prominent human rights defender in Sulu, Mindanao Island, who had to go on hiding after being falsely charged on charges of murder.

Tulawie is willing to prove his innocence in court; however, without adequate protection and given the political influence of the person who had filed the fabricated murder charges on him, it would be extremely difficult to submit himself for trial.

The petition believes that President Aquino and his officials could “afford him (Tulawie) the necessary protection against the ongoing legal and judicial harassment in Sulu”. For more details about this case, read our previous appeal: AHRC-FUA-014 -2010.

You can also visit his campaign website, “Protect Cocoy Tulawie“, hosted by the Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC).

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Link to this petition is:

Republic of the Philippines

Thru:   Atty. Paquito Ochoa, Jr.
Executive Secretary

Dear Mr. President:

Greetings of Peace and Justice!

We come to you with a great sense of urgency and concern over the plight of our colleague in the human rights movement, MR. TEMOGEN “COCOY” TULAWIE who is a long standing human rights defender in the Province of Sulu.  We have known the human rights work of Mr. Tulawie over the last 10 years and we have seen how he courageously took up the cudgel of justice, rule of law and human rights in his small embattled island.  In highly militarized areas in Mindanao such as in Sulu and Maguindanao where the rule of law is taken over by the rule of warlords and private armies, the price of human rights is very very high – human rights defenders in these areas pay for it with their lives and freedom.  Such is what had happened in the Maguindanao massacre, such is what is happening to Cocoy Tulawie now.

Background of the Case:

Mr. Tulawie’s human rights work is long and impressive.  But it has also brought him into a collision course with powerful local politicians.  Some of the human rights campaigns that Mr. Tulawie led are the following:

1.  Protest actions against the implementation of a Sulu Provincial Identification (ID) Card System.

In January 2008, Col. Natalio Ecarma, commanding officer of the 3rd Marine Brigade stationed in Sulu, with the support of the provincial government, issued an ID system which supposedly would help military and police authorities in combating terrorism and crimes in the island-province. However, different civil society groups, human rights organizations and members of the Philippine Senate, particularly then Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., as well as the Regional Office of the Commission of Human Rights (CHR), said that the mandatory wearing of the IDs by Sulu residents is illegal, and would only lead to further violations of human rights, as residents not wearing the identification cards can be subjected to harassment and possible detention by military troops, on suspicion that they are terrorists and criminals. The issued IDs were also seen by the residents of Sulu, majority of who are Muslims, as an insult to their culture and religion, and is part of the religious profiling that has been on-going in the name of “war against terror”. Sulu residents also raised the concern that the military enforcement of the ID cards likens the province of Sulu to a “garrison state”. The plan was suspended due to the successful public action undertaken under the leadership of Mr. Tulawie.

2. Organizing fact-finding missions regarding militarization and human rights violations.

Ipil Massacre. In February 2008, a civilian community in the village (or “barangay”) of Ipil in Maimbung, Sulu was attacked by military forces of the Special Warfare Group of the Philippine Navy and Light Reaction Company of the Philippine Army, in the company of US soldiers.  The attack led to the deaths of eight individuals, including 2 children and a pregnant woman. Mr. Tulawie contacted the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and an investigation was conducted regarding the event, and helped in the preparation of the prosecution of the erring soldiers.

Tanduh Pugut Bombing. On June 7, 2008, as a response to the kidnapping and subsequent release by members of the Abu Sayyaf of well-known television news reporter Ces Drilon, the military ordered the widespread bombing in the community of Tanduh Pugut, Barangay Siunugan, Indanan, Sulu.  The military operations led to the injury of several civilian families, destruction of houses, crops, farms, and other implements needed for the livelihood of the residents.  After the military operations, Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan went on national television stating that Tanduh Pugut is an Abu Sayyaf community.  Mr. Tulawie organized a fact-finding mission by civil society organizations, including the international organization Non-Violent Peace Force (NP), the Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) headed by Fr. Romeo Villanueva and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR, Region IX). The result of the fact-finding mission was presented publicly at a meeting with civil society organizations.  Governor Tan subsequently backtracked on his earlier pronouncement and instead promised that he will pay for all the damages resulting from the military attacks. However, Gov. Tan never fulfilled his promise.

Proclamation of a State of Emergency in Sulu. On March 31, 2009, Gov. Tan issued Proclamation No. 1 which placed the entire province of Sulu under a State of Emergency.  This came at the heels of the kidnapping of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) personnel, including 2 foreigners. On that same day, warrantless search and seizure operations were conducted which resulted in the arrests without charges of several innocent civilians.

Alarmed by the widespread violations occurring in relation to the declaration of the state of emergency, Mr. Tulawie asked Gov. Tan about the guidelines for the implementation of the state of emergency and the reason for the mass arrest of the civilians.

In response, Governor Tan told Mr. Tulawie that those who had been arrested are not innocent civilians, and that the arrests were not without bases. He likewise lamented that human rights organizations are always complaining when people get arrested. In reply, Mr. Tulawie reminded Gov. Tan about the previous instances wherein innocent civilians were massacred and killed due to “legitimate” military operations, which reply apparently irked Gov. Tan.  Later that same day, Gov. Tan called up Vice Mayor Tamrin Tulawie, an uncle of Mr .Tulawie, to ask for a meeting with Mr. Tulawie’s mother and two (2) brothers adding that he is no longer responsible for whatever might happen to Mr. Tulawie and his family.

Undeterred, Mr. Tulawie continued with his activities, and on April 4, 2009 he and two other companions filed a petition before the Philippine Supreme Court questioning the legality of Proclamation No. 1. Mr. Tulawie also proceeded with a plan to hold a big protest action in front of the Governor’s office, calling for the release of the arrested civilians.  The planned action was eventually cancelled because the Regional State Prosecutor of Region IX issued an order releasing those arrested. However, Gov. Tan was not happy with Mr. Tulawie’s actions.

Gang rapes in Sulu. Mr.  Tulawie also provided support to the women and girls who were victimized in a series of gang rapes in Sulu.  He spoke in a rally, calling for the accountability of the local governments in their inability to protect the women, and for allegedly conniving with the perpetrators of these atrocious crimes.  Some of the perpetrators are the sons of prominent families and members of the Civilian Emergency Forces (CEF), i.e., Sulu’s own paramilitary force, and a brainchild of the governor.


These and other human rights campaigns endeared Mr. Tulawie to the citizens of Sulu, but were increasingly threatening the local political leaders’ standing in the people’s eyes. In a meeting with the civil society, the Governor expressed that human rights reporting and advocacy are detrimental to the image of Sulu (in reference to the Sitio Tanduh Pugut).  In another meeting with CSOs (civil society organizations), this time regarding the proposed ID system, the governor maintained that as the local chief executive, he alone will make the decision on the ID and brushed aside the opposition thereto expressed by the CSO leaders.

On July 22, 2009, a case of Multiple Frustrated Murder and Attempted Murder, with Criminal Case No. (07-09) 1648-3 and Criminal Case No. (07-09) 1649-3 was filed at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 3 of Jolo, Sulu by Gov. Tan against Mr. Tulawie for his alleged involvement in the bombing incident which happened on May 13,2009, and which wounded twelve (12) persons including Gov. Tan.

The case was filed based on the supposedly signed confessions of two individuals – Mohammad Sulayman Muin and Juhan Alihuddin – who were arrested without warrant by elements of the private armed group under Gov. Tan, and then turned over to the Patikul police, and then later turned over to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP).  According to the CIDG, Muin and Alihuddin voluntarily confessed that they were the ones who executed the bombing and that Mr. Tulawie and the Congressional Representative for the 2nd District of Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison were the masterminds behind the attacks.

However, a signed counter-affidavit submitted on June 29, 2009 by one of the arrested suspects, Juhan Alihuddin, categorically denied having known the plans to kill Governor Tan. In his counter-affidavit, Alihuddin said that he was merely forced to sign the confession by the police and that he was not represented by a legal counsel of his choice during the investigation. He said the counsel was presented to him by the CIDG only after he had already signed the prepared confession. He reiterated that the contents of the said confession were false.

On the basis of this counter-affidavit, the City Prosecutor issued another resolution dismissing the complaint against Rep. Munir Arbison, but for some unknown reason, the court still issued a subpoena against Mr. Tulawie.

Prior to the filing of the case against him, Mr. Tulawie, upon learning about the forced confession extracted from Alihuddin and Muin, and fearing the possible threat against his life, asked for a protection order under the Writ of Amparo which was granted by the Court of Appeals last June 23, 2009.   Mr. Tulawie also filed a Petition for Review with the Department of Justice (DOJ), questioning the Resolution of the City Prosecutor, questioning, among others, the jurisdiction of the Zamboanga City Prosecutor to investigate a bombing incident in Jolo, Sulu.  Another petition – this time for Certiorari and Prohibition – was filed with the Court of Appeals, on June 30, 2009, to prevent the issuance of a warrant against Mr. Tulawie.

The Protection Order and Mr. Alhuddin’s counter-affidavit notwithstanding, and despite of the measures that Mr. Tulawie has resorted to so as to exercise his legal rights and defend his innocence in the court of law, a warrant of arrest was still issued on October 5, 2009 by Judge Leo Jay T. Principe against Mr. Tulawie. He issued the warrant without considering the Petition for Review, which is still pending for resolution.

Due to the arbitrariness by which the CIDG, the government prosecutor, and the Courts that have handled Mr. Tulawie’s case, the latter was pushed into hiding. In the meantime, two other witnesses surfaced, implicating Mr. Tulawie, but both eventually recanted.  In their recantation, the witnesses said that they were paid by the Governor. It is also worth noting that both are relatives of the governor’s chief security officer, one being the latter’s son and the other, his nephew.


Mr. Tulawie is prepared and willing to face the charges filed against him. Considering who he is up against, he is fearful for his safety and that of his family once he comes out in the open, and he needs adequate protection to safeguard their lives and security . Mr. Tulawie strongly believes that now is the most opportune time to face these charges against him, at the time of your administration and with your policies on strengthening the Justice Department, eliminating extrajudicial killings, broadly supporting just peace and giving redress to decades of neglect of the Moro and other peoples of Mindanao.

We are, therefore, respectfully requesting you to allow the intention of Mr. Tulawie to surrender his person to you or to any of your designated cabinet official whom you may appoint to attend to this matter. Mr. Tulawie believes that it is only you, Mr. President, who can afford him the necessary protection against the ongoing legal and judicial harassment in Sulu in the hands of his accuser, Governor Abdusakur Tan. While we acknowledge DOJ Secretary Leila De Lima’s major contributions in advancing the cause of human rights, we have a reservation on her objectivity and impartiality in handling this case as it is a given fact that she had served as counsel for Governor Abdusakur Tan in his election cases.

The exigency and magnitude of this case merit the attention of the highest official of the land. Past precedence such as the Martial Law era and the more recent Maguindanao Massacre have shown how the tyrannical rule of one man with unbridled and unchallenged power can cause unimaginable atrocity and monstrosity. Should the President of the Republic of the Philippines as the Commander-In-Chief  of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) take an active role in this case, the threat on the safety and security of Mr. Tulawie and his family will be greatly minimized, if not totally eliminated. As someone who has a deep past personal experience on being at the receiving end of political power abuses, we are trust that you can empathize with the plight of Mr. Tulawie.


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Document Type : Forwarded Urgent Appeal
Document ID : AHRC-FUA-016-2010
Countries : Philippines,
Issues : Administration of justice, Fabrication of charges, Human rights defenders,