PHILIPPINES: False murder charges on activist must be dropped 


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-002-2012
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention, Fabrication of charges, Human rights defenders, Prosecution system, Right to fair trial,

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.


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.

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.

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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,


1. Mr. Benigno Aquino III 
Republic of the Philippines 
Malacanang Palace 
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel 
Manila 1005 
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 
Fax: +63 2 929 0102 
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188 

4. Director General Nicanor Bartolome
Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP) 
Camp General Rafael Crame 
Quezon City 
Fax: +63 2724 8763 
Tel: +63 2 726 4361/4366/8763 

5. Ms. Leila de Lima 
Department of Justice (DOJ) 
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura 
1004 Manila 
Fax: +63 2 521 1614 

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 
Fax: +63 2 926 8747 
Tel: +63 2 926 9032

Yours sincerely,

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (