PHILIPPINES: Temogen Tulawie case - prosecutors uses forced confessions as evidence
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is deeply concerned by the continued prosecution of Temogen "Cocoy" Tulawie, a human rights defender of Tausug roots (one of the indigenous Muslim tribes), and four of his co-accused, for charges of murder in connection with a bombing incident on May 13, 2009 in Patikul, Sulu. The evidence against them was based on the forced confessions of two of the accused which they have already recanted.
Tulawie was forced to hide due to continuing threats and uncertainties that he would be afforded a fair trial and due process in his province of Sulu. He was arrested on January 13, 2012 at 11:45pm at his rented house in Davao City. His decision to flee from his province was to secure himself and his family as he was waiting for the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) to transfer the venue of his trial from Sulu.
Tulawie, knowing full well that the evidence on him was fabricated, resolved to defend himself in court to clear his name. Tulawie had been falsely charged with multiple frustrated murders and multiple attempted murders for allegedly 'masterminding' and 'plotting' to assassinate Abdusakur Tan, present governor of Sulu, in a bomb attack on May 13, 2009. Tan and his convoy had been targeted by a bomb attack which injured seven of his security escorts and four other people.
Following the bomb attack on May 26, 2009, the police in Patikul, Sulu, claimed to have arrested two people, Sulayman Muhammad Muin and Juhan Alihuddin, who were involved in the bomb attack following a gun fight. The police claimed firearms were confiscated from them during arrest and they both had "manifested their cooperation and separately executed voluntary confessions" while they were held at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG, Region 9).
In his confession under duress, Muin alleged that Tulawie was the "mastermind and who provided the single motorcycle planted with (an) Improvised Explosive Device (IED) used in their plan to assassinate the governor". Muin also implicated three others, Alihuddin, Muammar Askali and a certain Abs, supposedly as his accomplices. Also, in his confession under duress Alihuddin claimed that "Cocoy, Muammar and Sulayman Muin talked with each other regarding the placement of the explosives" and he was also aware of an alternative plan should they fail.
A subpoena was filed on the arrestees Muin and Alihuddin by prosecutor Ricardo Cabaron who commenced his preliminary investigation into the murder charges on June 10, 2009. However, in responding to the subpoena they both recanted their testimonies declaring the "extrajudicial statement" they had issued while they were in custody of the police was obtained by force.
There were three witnesses who supported Tulawie's defense of alibi that he was physically in Panamao, Sulu and not in his house as alleged, when the supposed meeting after the assassination attempt on Governor Tan took place on May 19, 2009. Also, four other witnesses testified that one of the accused, Askali, "was at his residence in Indanan, Sulu tending his store" when the May 13 bombing happened. Those who had given their testimonies were villagers, neighbours and persons who were familiar with the persons and daily routine of the accused.
Prosecutor Cabaron, however, resolved in his resolution dated July 22, 2009, that the requirement of probable cause in filing murder charges in court against the five accused were met because the bomb attack was "undoubtedly was an attempt against the lives of Governor Tan and others and (had) caused damaged". He also concluded that the "extrajudicial statement" that Muin's executed were "credible and admissible evidence as against the (evidence of the) respondents for purposes of determining probable cause to the commission of the crime."
To provide justification to the legal basis of his questionable resolution, Cabaron invoked the principle of "res inter alios rule"; however, nothing in his resolution adequately explained what they mean. Nevertheless, he argued this rule provided justifications as to the admissibility of "extrajudicial statements" or confessions under duress used as evidence by police in preliminary investigation of prosecutors. Knowing full well to the questions of legality, Cabaron argued that "while there is a legal issue on the admissibility of the declaration of the confessant during trial if the latter does not testify, such is not a vital significance during preliminary investigation stage".
The AHRC strongly condemns the prosecutor's decision in this case justifying the admissibility of forced confession as evidence against the accused. The prosecutor's legally flawed and questionable justifications, if not corrected, would allow these accused to be subjected to a trial in court over evidence that is completely fabricated. We urge the Department of Justice (DoJ) to withdraw without delay the prosecution of murder charges against Tulawie and his co-accused. We are shocked by the callousness and the complete disregard to the fundamental principles of due process and fair trial of the prosecutor who is involved in the prosecution of this case.
The role of prosecutors is not only to determine the probability that the crime have been committed but also to ensure that no one is prosecuted over fabricated case. They have an enormous role to play in protecting the interests of the people. Their duty is not only to prosecute crimes against the state, but also to protect the Filipino people subjected to the law of the State.