[Urgent Appeal] Court fails to conclude an activists’ appeal to dismiss false charges -AHRC

Urgent Appeal Update: AHRC-UAU-025-2012
6 July 2012

[RE: AHRC-UAU-002-2012: PHILIPPINES: False murder charges on activist must be dropped]
PHILIPPINES: Court fails to conclude an activists’ appeal to dismiss false charges on him made three years on
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest and detention; fabrication of charges; human rights defenders; prosecution system; right to fair trial

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been informed that nearly six months after the arrest and detention of Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie, a human rights activist laid with fabricated murder charges, the court has not commence the trial. The court suspended the proceedings due to its own failure to conclude the victim’s petition to dismiss the charges filed nearly three years ago.

UPDATED INFORMATION: (Based on the information received from the Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC))
On January 26, 2012, after Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie’s was arrested and detained, we issued an appeal (AHRC-UAU-002-2012) and have written to government authorities, notably Leila De Lima, secretary of the Department of Justice (DoJ), asking her to “consider reviewing the evidence and merits of the case” as the basis of concluding that there was a probable cause by the prosecutors.

In our letter, we argued that the DoJ should consider dismissing the charges on Tulawie considering that the evidence on him “is based on the forced confession that were obtained from the two accused themselves,” implicating Tulawie’s supposed role as “mastermind” of the May 13, 2009 bomb attack, which they already recanted. The AHRC, however, has not received any response from De Lima’s office on this.

For detailed discussion, read our statement: AHRC-STM-011-2012.

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court (SC), Third Division, issued a Resolution dated June 13, 2011 to transfer the trial of Tulawie’s case from the Regional Trial Court (RTC), in Jolo, Sulu “to any Court may deemed convenient, and considering that there is an indication of actual imminent threat to the life of the petitioner (Tulawie) and his family.”

In fact, on December 14, 2011, the SC again issued its subsequent Resolution that upholds this order, in which Governor Abdusakur Tan, the complainant of the murder charges, questioned. In this order, the SC resolved that: “considering that no substantial matter has been raised therein to warrant a modification of this Court’s resolution, the Court resolves to DENY reconsideration with FINALITY.”

However, despite the SC’s order and the case folder of the documents having been transferred to Davao City, notably the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 11, under the jurisdiction of Virginia Holifena-Europa, the trial of the case could not proceed. In her order dated May 4, 2012, she argued that:

“Pending resolution is a Motion to Quash filed by the accused…for the record, Prosecutor Marte Melchor S. Velasco who is assigned to prosecute cases in Branch 11 of the RTC, Davao City had previously manifested that he has not yet been duly authorized by the Department of Justice to appear and handle this case. That being the case, he cannot file any comment and/or opposition to the pending Motion to Quash even with the appearance of private prosecutors.”
Judge Europa further argued that:

“…..this Court received a copy of a petition filed before the Honorable Supreme court by one of the private complainants asking for the transfer of venue of this case to Manila.” For this, the court ordered:”In view of the foregoing, further proceedings in this case are hereby suspended in deference to the Honorable Supreme Court.”

In the court’s hearing on this case on May 25, 2012, the court itself agreed that since the jurisdiction of the case has been transferred to its branch; thus, it is automatic that the prosecutors assigned in that branch have the authority to handle the case. This corrects the prosecutor’s earlier claims that he could not comment on the Motion to Quash as “he has not yet been duly authorized by the Department of Justice”.

However, although the obstacles regarding the lack of authority of the prosecutor, which have already been revealed as misconceived–and have already been addressed; and those orders of the SC have affirmed the court’s authority to try the case, Judge Europa has been unable to commence the trial of Tulawie’s case.

It is obvious that the failure to commence the trial of the case since Tulawie’s arrest in January 13, 2012 have been due to the courts’ failure to resolve the Motion to Resolve the Motion to Quash that the counsel of the accused has filed. Tulawie first filed his Motion to Quash on July 25, 2009.

The AHRC therefore urges you to write letters to: Judge Virginia Holifena-Europa, presiding judge, Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 11, Davao City, PHILIPPINES, asking her to resolve the accused appeal promptly.

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

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