The last human rights’ defender of Sulu is under seige
Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie belongs to a prominent and notorious clan in Sulu. Instead of succumbing to the workings of the clan to gain political advancement, he chose to serve the poor. Cocoy simply wants to create space for ordinary people to regain their dignity and self-respect amidst the endless recurring clan wars and the military’s impunity to violate human rights of the individual Tausug and their communities.
Immediately after his studies in Manila, Cocoy Tulawie started organizing the local organization named “BAWBUG”, which means “Serve, Respect and Protect” to address the human rights violations during the military operations in the islands. Cocoy Tulawie was also an active member of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (CHD) from 2004-2008 and a council member of the Non-Violent Peace Force in the province of Sulu. He served as a municipal council of the capital town of Jolo from 2004-2007. During his term, he was one of the organizers of the Concerned Citizens of Sulu that fought for the democratization of local politics, transparency in governance and upholding the rights of the residents of Sulu.
After the release of the two International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) members, Gov. Sakur Tan of Sulu issued a state of emergency on March 31, 2009 resulting to the arrest of 42 persons including two or more policemen, vendors, and barangay captains. Among those arrested is the younger brother of the OIC mayor of Indanan, Sulu. Eight of them were brought to Zamboanga City for further interrogation but after ten days, all were released due to lack of evidence.
Consistent with his human rights advocacy, Cocoy Tulawie confronted the governor on his declaration of state of emergency and on the subsequent mass arrests. Later, on April 4, 2009, he sent a petition before the Supreme Court, questioning the legality of such declaration. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that the declaration of state of emergency in Sulu was unconstitutional.
Cocoy organized fact-finding missions which exposed Gov. Sakur Tan’s culpability by virtue of omission in relation to the rise of cases of gang rapes and sexual violence against women in Sulu. Victims who were interviewed all pointed to the sons of political warlords and members of the Civilian Emergency Forces as perpetrators of the heinous crimes. But justice was not served because the perpetrators are people who have connections with or are working for Gov. Sakur Tan.
Cocoy Tulawie was subjected to a very systematic smear campaign. All those who have attempted to extend support to him have been harassed and ridiculed, as if he was a bearer of a curse. On May 13, 2009, a radio transceiver-controlled bomb placed in a motorcycle parked in the capital grounds exploded when the convoy of the governor was directly beside it. Tan was unscathed but nine people were injured. Two suspects were arrested and tortured for three days inside the compound of the governor. Based on the confessions of the two arrested suspects, Cocoy Tulawie was allegedly named as one of those behind the attempted assassination of Gov. Tan together with other named politicians. Expectedly, based on trummed-up charges, a warrant of arrest was issued against Cocoy Tulawie last October 5, 2009. Believing he has no chance of being tried fairly in Jolo, Cocoy transferred residence while waiting for the Supreme Court decision on his motion for transfer of venue of trial to Davao.
Cocoy was arrested in Davao City last January 13, 2012.
His accusers want him to be separated from his fellow Tausugs and human rights advocates. Cocoy Tulawie is not a murderer. He is not capable of doing such dastardly act. Throughout the years when the Tausugs were subjected to continuing human rights violations, he remained steadfast in his advocacy. He remained in the island to extend protection and assistance to these victims when others retreated to their comfort zones. He is constantly called to facilitate resolution of conflicts like banta or redo. He was instrumental in frustrating the implementation of an ID system as initiated by then Col. Ecarma of the Philippine Marines last January, 2008. He is held in high regard by the ulamas and gurus because of his resiliency in fighting against oppression.
The arrogance of Gov. Tan stems not solely from being a warlord, for he is not alone in wishing that Cocoy Tulawie is effectively neutralized. The Philippine military, under the notorious Task Force Comet also wants to silence Cocoy Tulawie.
The United States of America is also interested in getting rid of Cocoy Tulawie. Cocoy Tulawie has been at the forefront of an anti-imperialist movement in the island. When the US Troops were about to enter the island, the local anti-imperialist movement registered (in their thousands) their refusal to allow them. When the US troops manipulated their way into the island, Cocoy Tulawie Tulawie stood firm in demanding their immediate pull-out.
Let us not allow the conspiracy of the triumvirate – the US, the Philipine military, and the warlords in Sulu to triumph in rough-shoding Cocoy Tulawie’s rights and keeping him in jail.
We call on all human rights advocates, people’s movement, lawyers’ groups and associations, church individuals and institutions and progressive people in the academe to help in the Free Cocoy Tulawie Campaign. Together with our brother Tausugs, we will never submit to fear.
KILUSAN PARA SA PAMBANSANG DEMOKRASYA
February 1, 2013
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