Hon. Walden Bello: Justice for Cocoy Tulawie, Uphold Human Rights in Mindanao
Prof. Walden Bello visiting Cocoy at the Davao City Police Office on March 9, 2012 -Photo by MPC
June 5, 2012 – Prof. Walden Bello, AKBAYAN Party-list Representative delivered a privileged speech at the Congress on Cocoy Tulawie case. Below is the full text of his speech:
“It is alarming how the legal mantra “innocent until proven guilty” holds no water in some parts of the country. In fact, we are confronted with the reality that sees human rights advocates jailed and prosecuted as criminals by precisely the same people that they try to call to account. We are confronted with the reality that human rights defenders, even as they fight for the rights of others, must prove their innocence to be cleared of guilt. Clearly, the culture of impunity persists. And this culture allows for members of political and economic powerhouses to violate the rights of ordinary Filipinos, and quash voices of dissent with an even more severe force against transparency, accountability and democracy. This culture creates a vicious cycle and it targets those who lay their life on the line to empower people to live a life of dignity.
Human rights groups have observed the increasing criminalisation of human rights defenders across the country. In a report by the International Peace Observers Network (IPON), elites have systematically filed criminal cases against advocates and this has been particularly effective in silencing those who try to claim what is rightfully theirs. This effort is employed by elites across the board, from issues of land reform and the redistribution of agricultural lands to the tillers, to issues of peace and stemming the tide of violence in political hotspots like ARMM.
A very important illustration of the human rights predicament we are in is the case of Sulu human rights defender Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie. Today, Mr. Tulawie languishes in jail for standing up against the abuses of local government officials; he is in jail for a crime whose witnesses already admitted to having been forced to make false testimonies against him.
All this begs the question, who is Mr. Tulawie and what has he done to earn the ire of local powerful and influential local interests?
Mr. Tulawie is a leader in the human rights movement in Sulu. Through his organization, Bawgbug, Cocoy led the protests against violations against the dignity and life of ordinary Filipinos. He sought to make local government leaders and the military accountable for their abuse of power. In particular, he spoke vehemently against human rights violations incurred by the military in its attempt to contain the Abu Sayyaf and has called for investigations of the same. To protect individual liberties and take a stand against institutionalized discriminatory religious profiling, he led the opposition to the plan to impose an ID system in Sulu. He has likewise raised his voice against the increasing incidence of gang rapes and sexual violence against women that involved sons of influential families and the Civilian Emergency Forces in Sulu at a time when the local government would rather sweep the incidences under the rug. He also openly engaged and criticized Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan for the warrantless arrests and the violation of civil liberties that ensued during the 2009 State of Emergency in Sulu.
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