Emmanuel “Manny” Mulawan Sr. exposed the irregularities in the bidding and awarding of a Bulk Water Supply Project in Cagayan de Oro City, but instead of being recognized for his efforts, he was arrested on a trumped up charge of rape, which allegedly was committed in Cavite, and has been languishing in the Imus, Cavite Jail for two years already.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — A broad organization of government employees is appealing to President Duterte and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to investigate the circumstances behind the arrest and detention of and immediately release a union member and whistleblower in Misamis Oriental province who has been detained based on a trumped-up criminal charge.
Emmanuel “Manny” Mulawan Sr. has been languishing in Imus, Cavite Jail for two years based on a rape charge, a non-bailable offense.
But the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) decried his arrest and detention as “harassment and injustice,” which came after he exposed the irregularities in the Bulk Water Supply Project of Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) in Misamis Oriental in Mindanao.
The project was awarded to a private company, Rio Verde Water Consortium Inc (RVWCI) which was owned by Palawan Governor Jose Pepito Alvarez. The bidding and awarding of the project, according to a report of the Commission on Audit, was “tainted with fraud and irregularities.” http://isslerhall.org/drupal/content/bulk-water-supply-project-cdo-philippines-opposed
Mulawan is a member of the union First Labor Organization of the Cagayan de Oro City Water District (FLOW), which led a series of protests against the project since 2010. He was arrested by Gitagum police at the COWD office in Cagayan de Oro City on June 11, 2014 with a warrant dated Sept. 20, 2013.
COURAGE and FLOW said the trumped-up charge against Mulawan was meant to silence him.
Ferdinand Gaite, COURAGE president said that government employees are vulnerable to harassment especially when employees are exposing corruption in the bureaucracy. The usual cases filed against government employees as form of harassment are only administrative cases, but Mulawan’s case was worse, he said, because he was charged with a non-bailable crime.
Gaite said that Mulawan’s case is still political, even if he was not included in the list of political prisoners.
Mulawan was in Mindanao, but the rape was in Luzon
Emmanuel Mulawan Jr., his son, said the alleged rape took place in Cavite province in Southern Luzon region on June 21, 2013. But Emmanuel said his father, the bread-winner of the family, has never set-foot in Cavite. The biometric record of their office also showed that Mulawan was physically present at the office on the same day the “rape” reportedly happened.
Emmanuel said the arrest happened quickly and his father was whisked off to the Gitagum Police Station, 30 kilometers away from Cagayan de Oro city. The police also immediately obtained a travel order to bring Mulawan to Cavite. The next day, June 12, 2014, on the first flight out, the Gitagum police brought Mulawan to Luzon.
“It was as if everything was carefully planned,” Emmanuel told Bulatlat in an interview.
The family also questions why the Gitagum Police did not coordinate with the Cagayan de Oro City police for the arrest.
Court hearings were conducted while Mulawan is in prison but the complainant failed to appear during arraignment and pre-trial hearings. On Aug. 27, 2014 Judge Perla Cabrera-Faller dismissed the case provisionally.
Mulawan flew back to Cagayan de Oro on Sept 4, 2014. But 10 days later, on Sept. 14, police again arrested him because the complainant has resurfaced. He was, however, kept under hospital arrest in Cagayan de Oro City due to a mild stroke. In February 2015, he was brought back to a jail facility in Cavite.
The complainant still failed to appear in court after a series of hearings, which prompted the judge to threaten to dismiss the case. On Aug. 12, 2015, the complainant appeared in court.
Edgardo Goylan, FLOW board of directors, lamented that the hearing was always reset. “It was a delaying tactic,” he said. A hearing is set again this month.
‘Pass the Whistleblowers Bill’
Gaite said the proposed Whistleblowers Act of Bayan Muna, if passed, could have protected whistleblowers like Mulawan. But the bill was not passed in the Senate.
“Nasa bituka ng buwitre ang mga government employees (Government workers are in the belly of the beast). Some of them have witnessed firsthand how some government officials squander the people’s money. Anyone who talks to expose corruption could really face threats/ harassments. That is why a law that will protect whistleblowers is important,” Gaite said in a press conference on Aug. 16.
Mulawan’s colleagues said they are determined to fight and oppose the project as it was tainted with corruption. They never thought that their struggle for good governance would result to Mulawan’s arrest. But even then, FLOW did not waver in their fight.
“Our group is still strong. We never felt fear after Mulawan’s arrest. We were even more determined,” said Goylan, FLOW director. The union’s leaders and two of Mulawan’s sons are in the capital to visit him in jail.
With Mulawan in detention, his son takes on role as breadwinner
Since his father’s detention, Emmanuel took on the responsibility as the family’s breadwinner. He now works at the Cagayan de Oro City Hall, and takes on other jobs on the side to be able to provide for the needs of their family. His brother Art, 21, is in second year college, taking up Education, while his sister, 18 is also currently studying, supported by a scholarship.
Emmanuel said they are grateful for all the people who extended help, especially his father’s union, FLOW, which gave assistance to them during the first year of Mulawan’s detention.
Still, they encounter difficult times since their father was detained. There are times, Emmanuel said, when they are not able to eat because they do not have money.
“Talagang hirap kami sa pang-araw araw,” (Everyday is a struggle.) he said. They have a small stall in the market but it is often closed because they do not have the capital to purchase what they would sell. They also have accumulated unpaid rent for the store.
Emmanuel said they are trying their best to survive. They have accepted that what happened to his father was due to his commitment to the people they serve in Cagayan de Oro. It was his mother though, who went through depression after Mulawan’s arrest. He said a year before his father was arrested, his mother warned Mulawan to stop his crusade because of the death threats he was receiving. But threats never stopped Mulawan, his son said.
Emmanuel also pleaded to the President to probe his father’s case. “He who has not done anything wrong is now suffering. We are also suffering with his detention,” he said.
Emmanuel said they are keeping their faith that soon their father will be released from prison. Asked where they draw strength to face the challenges they are dealing with, he said it is with God. “We need to keep on going and to stay strong. Even with the delays we know that in the right time he will be freed,” Emmanuel said.