A lawyer, counsel to human rights violations victims and petitioners against the Rodrigo Duterte government’s controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, had been stabbed in Iloilo City Wednesday night, March 3.
Atty. Angelo Karlo Guillen was stabbed with a screw driver on his lower left temple and back by two unidentified assailants at about 9:15 PM along Gen. Antonio Luna Street in the said city.
He was taken to the St. Paul Hospital and is reportedly in stable condition.
An assistant vice president for Visayas of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and secretary general of its local chapter, Guillen serves as counsel in various public interest and human rights cases in both Panay and Negros islands.
The lawyer represents red-tagged activists and human rights defenders, including those arrested in the simultaneous raids in Bacolod City in October 2019 and the Tumandok arrested in Panay last December that also saw the killing of nine tribes people in two villages.
On May 1, 2020, Guillen was arrested when he tried to intervene in the mass arrest of 42 activists protesting the murder of Bayan Muna Iloilo coordinator Jory Porquia.
The assailants wore masks and caps, reports said.
Not a robbery
Groups and individuals said the assailants took pains to make it appear the attack was a common crime, a scenario the local police reportedly quickly supported.
“The attack against (the victim) was conveniently dismissed by the local PNP as robbery-hold up. Four hours after the incident there is still no hot-pursuit operation. There were no check points. Not even police visibility in the crime scene,” Lean Porquia, son of murdered Bayan Muna Iloilo City coordinator Jory, said.
Atty. Jose Edmund Guillen, Public Attorney’s Office Region VI chief and uncle to the victim also dismissed the police’s robbery theory.
“You want to make it appear as a robbery? The CCTV footage says otherwise. It was a kill operation. Right on the dot, after the stabbing, two motorcycles arrived to pick up the masked killers and they disappear[ed] in the dark,” he said.
“[W]e cannot be fooled by this, because we know for a fact that the state and its security forces have been targeting Atty. Guillen as well as other lawyers handling cases of activists not only in Panay island but in Negros island as well,” human rights group Karapatan Negros Oriental said in a statement.
State terror in Panay
Porquia said the lawyer’s laptop was taken that contained all the files of the cases he is handling, including his father’s murder, the Tumandok massacre, the anti terror law petition, the mass arrest of 42 activists, the Sagay 9 massacre, and several writ of Amparo cases.
“The attack on Atty. Guillen should be seen in the context of systematic, continuing, and increasing attacks on human rights and human rights defenders. Atty. Guillen has been redtagged for several times just like other peoples’ lawyers and human rights defenders who were tagged as ‘terrorists’ or ‘communists’ and were subsequently attacked and harassed,” the NUPL Panay Law Students group said.
Last February 28, a possible witness to the victim’s Tumandok 9 case was also killed .
Village chief Julie Catamin of Brgy. Roosevelt, Tapaz, Capiz was shot dead by motorcycle-riding assassin in Brgy. Malitbog, Calinog, Iloilo .
Catarmin went on record belying the Philippine National Police’s allegation that those massacred and arrested by police and military operatives in the December 30, 2020 bloodbath were communist guerillas.
Various groups and individuals condemned the attack against Guillen and called for an immediate investigation.
The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said Guillen’s attackers are evil.
“It is very clear that those who have motives to silence Atty. Guillen, even to the point of violence, could only be the Duterte regime and its tentacles in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict,” the labor federation said in Filipino.
The NUPL also condemned the slay attempt against its officer.
The group said it has recorded at least 54 killings of lawyers and judges that appear to be related their human rights work.
In December 2020, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, NUPL, and various legal groups raised concerns over the increasing and alarming incidents of attacks on lawyers before the Supreme Court. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)