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PHILIPPINES: False murder charges on activist must be dropped

January 26, 2012

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Update: AHRC-UAU-002-2012

26 January 2012

[RE: AHRC-FUA-016-2010: PHILIPPINES: Petition asking President Aquino to take custody of a falsely charged activist]
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PHILIPPINES: False murder charges on activist must be dropped

ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest and detention; Fabrication of charges; Human rights defenders; Prosecution system; Right to fair trial
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes with deep concern on the continued prosecution of Temogen "Cocoy" Tulawie, a human rights defender, for murder charges based on evidence taken by way of forced confessions. We call on the Department of Justice to (DoJ) to drop the charges on him promptly due to serious questions of due process and deprivation of his right to fair trial.

UPDATED INFORMATION:

In our previous appeal (AHRC-FUA-016 -2010), we mentioned that the Mindanao People's Caucus (MPC), a coalition of NGOs in Mindanao handling Tulawie's case, had appealed to President Benigno Aquino III for him or his officials to take custody of Tulawie so he could come forward to appear to trial.

However, their appeal to have Tulawie in the executive department's custody, which was to ensure his safety and security should he face his trial, were ignored until he was arrested on January 13, 2012 in Davao City, after years in hiding. The details of his arrest and the case analysis over the use of forced confessions as evidence on him can be read here: AHRC-STM-011-2012. He is presently detained at Davao City Police Office, Camp Domingo Leonor, Davao City.

Prior to his arrest, on June 13, 2011 the Supreme Court (SC) had already granted Tulawie's petition to transfer the trial of his case from Jolo, Sulu to Davao City, which is geographically far from each other. In granting his petition, the SC acknowledged the severity of insecurity and threats:

"…there is an indication of actual and imminent threat to the life of the petitioner and his family, as well as his witnesses, as found by the Court of Appeals..."

But for seven months the Clerk of Court (CoC) of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 3, Jolo, Sulu, ignored the urgency of the SC's order. The CoC's failure to turn over the case to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Davao City disregarded the SC's order for the case to be heard and decided "with utmost dispatch".

Knowing full well of the SC's pending order, Judge Betlee-Ian Barraquias, of the RTC in Jolo, Sulu, wrote to the RTC in Davao City, "to deliver/transfer the custody of the accused, on Temogen "Cocoy" Tulawie, to the[ir] jurisdiction". In another order dated January 16, 2012 that he issued, he warned those who refused to return Tulawie to their custody could face administrative charges and contempt:

"…is disobedience to this court's lawful orders and interferes with court proceedings and processes tantamount to obstruction of justice and may constitute contempt of court and administrative proceedings…"

For openly defying the SC's order, Raul Bautista Villanueva, the deputy court administrator, wrote a letter dated January 17, 2012 to Judge Pelagio Paguican, the RTC Judge in Davao City, to inform not to implement the Order of Judge Barraquias because it was "contrary to the Resolution dated June 13, 2011 issued by the Third Division of the Supreme Court".

However, despite repeated and persistent follow-up for the CoC in Jolo, Sulu to implement the SC's order dated June 13, 2011, they were ignored. In effect, the trial of Tulawie could also not proceed in Davao City.

While the AHRC supports the appeal of the local groups, the MPC and the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), in implementing the SC's order promptly, however we raise reservations as to whether this trial should be pursued. If the trial is allowed to continue, it would in effect tolerate the prosecution of the innocent persons based on forced confessions.

We are of the opinion that the murder charges on Tulawie and his co-accused must be dropped.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write letters to the Department of Justice (DoJ) to conduct a thorough review on Tulawie's case. Unless the allegations of forced confession having been used as prosecution's evidence on him are disproved in substance, the DoJ must correct the wrong doing of its local prosecutors by dropping the charges.

The AHRC has also written letters to the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

PHILIPPINES: False murder charges on activist must be dropped

Name of victim:
1. Temogen "Cocoy" Tulawie, a human rights defender. He is presently detained at the Davao City Police Office, Camp Domingo Leonor, Davao City.
2. Sulayman Muhammad Muin
3. Juhan Alihuddin
4. A certain Abs
Date and place of his arrest: January 13, 2012 in Davao City
Details of his case:
Tulawie and three of his co-accused were charged for multiple frustrated murders and multiple attempted murders, registered as Criminal Cases Nos. (07-09) 1648-3 and (07-09) 1649, at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Sulu. The Supreme Court (SC) had already granted his petition to transfer the trial of their case from Jolo, Sulu to Davao City due to threats on his life and his witnesses; however, the local court where the case are pending did not implement the order.

I am writing to draw your attention to the case of Temogen "Cocoy" Tulawie, a human rights defender from Sulu, and his three co-accused who were falsely charged with murders together. The charges on them were in connection to the bomb attack of a convoy of provincial governor Abdusakur Tan on May 13, 2009 in Patikul, Sulu, that left seven of his security escorts and four others wounded.

I am aware that the prosecution's evidence on Tulawie in based on the forced confession that were obtained from the two accused themselves, Muin and Alihuddin, which they have already recanted. They both claimed the police investigators forced them into implicating Tulawie allegedly as 'mastermind' of the bomb attack. However, despite having their testimonies recanted, the prosecution pursued in the prosecution of the case invoking that those testimonies were enough to establish a 'probable cause' that the crimes of murder had been committed.

I could not understand why prosecutor Ricardo Cabaron of Zamboanga City, the prosecutor who conducted the investigation in this case, despite knowing full well that those testimonies had already been recanted by those who testified on them, would proceed on accepting these evidence as "credible and admissible" in justifying the prosecution of this case.

I am deeply concerned that Tulawie and his co-accused would have to endure trial base on evidence taken by way of forced confessions. Therefore, I urged you to consider reviewing the evidence and merits of his case. As you know, the prosecution department plays an invaluable role, not only in prosecution of offenses against the State, but also to protect individuals from be prosecuted over false charges.

I am aware that the Department of Justice (DoJ) had, in the past, played invaluable role in protecting the rights of persons from being prosecuted over false charges. This was evident in the case of Morong 43, a group of medical workers who were also arbitrarily arrested and detained, in which the DoJ had recommended to be dismissed due to questions of due process in securing evidence on them.

With this past experience, I appeal to the DoJ to afford Tulawie and his co-accused similar intervention promptly. In doing so, this would affirm equal protection of the law by the government of any persons prosecuted over false charges.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Benigno Aquino III
President
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80

2. Ms. Loretta Ann Rosales
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
E-mail: chair.rosales.chr@gmail.com

4. Director General Nicanor Bartolome
Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP)
Camp General Rafael Crame
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2724 8763
Tel: +63 2 726 4361/4366/8763
E-mail: ruth_cossid@yahoo.com

5. Ms. Leila de Lima
Secretary
Department of Justice (DOJ)
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura
1004 Manila
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 521 1614
E-mail: soj@doj.gov.ph

6. Mr. Emilio Gonzalez
Deputy Ombudsman
Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military
and Other Law Enforcement Offices
3rd Floor, Ombudsman Bldg., Agham Road, Diliman
1104 Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 926 8747
Tel: +63 2 926 9032


Yours sincerely,

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)


 

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID :
AHRC-UAU-002-2012
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.