Human rights lawyer survives murder attempt

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.

Swift condemnation

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)


By Karlos Ysagani Zarate

The fascists, four of them, did not respect
the cool morning breeze of Arevalo;
Nay, they’re even afraid to show their face
to the morning light that breaks through
the expanse of Iloilo strait!
That morning, they have decided
to be your accusers, the prosecutors,
the jury and your executioners!
Your crimes: serving and feeding the poor
during this reign of a crowned virus!

As the grating voice of the venomous god
echoes in their ears, promising faux redemption,
it muted the symphony of the chasing, splashing
waves and the humming cool summer wind,
they have prayed and decided over your fate:
You who is relentless, diligent, firm,
hardworking, principled and exemplary!
They cannot just injure, wound, maim,
Or, torture your kind Jory!
They’ll wipe out for good your infectious smile!

“Murder”, that was a strong indictment,
the palace jester said on a talking box;
But how, indeed, you call a traitorous act
of ending the life of a peaceful, defenseless man
by four armed masked men who pumped
eight bullets to his fragile being, one bullet
nearly blown the head off, as if to insure his death?
Yes, it was murder most foul by coward sicarius
Of a false god that spews virus and microbes of death!
It was, in fact, murder ex cathedra!

Yet, they were mistaken, gravely so, as it was then!
The bullets that pierced Jory’s being did not kill him,
nor, shatter his dreams that there is that day
certain to come when the mamumugon will reap
the just shares of their labors; when the mangunguma
will become masters of the land they till
and feed well the masa, the true jury of history;
And, in his beachside coffeehouse flows free
the brew that will continuously invigorate the banwa,
in defending the gains of the revolution – Jory’s real joys!

caritaz. 14 May 2020

= = = = =

The poet is Deputy Minority Leader and third-term member of the House of Representatives, representing Bayan Muna Party.

Jory Porquia was Bayan Muna coordinator in Iloilo City. He was assassinated by four gunmen, believed to be state agents, in his home in Aravelo, Iloilo City last April 30. He has been a repeated victim of red-tagging by the military, the latest was connected to his urban-poor feeding program under the coronavirus lockdown imposed by the Rodrigo Duterte government.

They murdered a jolly activist today

They killed him in the midst of a dangerous pandemic, one that shut down his beloved city and rendered its poor communities nearly helpless.

The person brutally murdered by four burly men in early this morning was one of Iloilo City’s most visible personalities during times of disaster and calamities, often seen organizing and coordinating relief missions. And giving relief to those most affected by the coronavirus lockdown was one of the last public things he did before assassins brutally snuffed out his life.

Jory Porquia was at ease with the poor, both urban and rural. He had a smooth rapport with the people he chose to serve since his student-activist days. He bantered easily with the poor and marginalized, his voice and laughter carrying the Ilonggo’s sing-song and tender accent far, be it in Iloilo City’s poor communities or in the far-flung communities of the Tumanduk, the indigenous people of his beloved Panay Island.

Jory was coordinator of the alternative political party Bayan Muna in his home city of Iloilo, touted to be the “City of Love.” How he lived this love was unconscionable to the enemies social justice Porquia struggled to abide by all his life. The assassins barged into his rented house and pumped nine bullets into him, killing him on the spot.

Bayan Muna immediately condemned the assassination, calling it traitorous. The group suspects Porquia’s murderers could only be of the government. “Prior to this killing, Jory was hounded by elements of Iloilo City PNP (Philippine National Police) for leading relief operations and education campaign on COVID 19 among hungry residents of poor communities in Iloilo City,” Bayan Muna said. “This is part of the impunity in political killings aimed at terrorizing activists critical of Duterte’s administration,” it added.

 Bayan Muna revealed that even though Iloilo City mayor Mayor Jerry Treñas welcomed the relief and feeding activities Bayan Muna and Jory initiated, this did not sit well with the government. ”The police did not only prevent activists like Porquia from doing volunteer work against the pandemic, it even spread the blatant lie that the food served by activists to quarantined residents are contaminated with the COVID 19 virus,” Bayan Muna fumed. “Apparently, the PNP gets instructions from their generals ignoring the policies of local chief executives,” the group added.

The lies and harassments did not stop Jory. But the assassins’ bullets did.

Jory Porquia (Supplied photo)

Successful activist career

Jory survived Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law as a leading Kabataan para sa Demokrasya at Nasyonalismo (KADENA) and League of Filipino Students leader. After Marcos was ousted he was appointed by Corazon Aquino to the National Youth Commission. He left his government post when it became clear the so-called People Power government is not one to bring genuine social change.

As a young family man, he had to work as a migrant worker in Saudi Arabia, Singapore and China. In those countries, it was as if Jory was still the Iloilo activist of old as he became active in organizing fellow migrant workers and advocating for Filipino migrants’ rights.

Upon his return, Jory briefly engaged in the construction business and worked as Migrante organizer in Panay. To this day, Migrante calls him its own, expressing grief and anger at his murder. “With pain and sorrow, we grieve with Jory Porquia’s loved ones, friends and his fellow Bayan Muna members for his demise,” Migrante International said.

Jory was an well-rounded activist. Aside from his organizing tasks in various organizations, he was also an active environmentalist. He was among the activists of the Madia-as Ecological Movement, which was instrumental in the banning of destructive commercial mining in Panay.

When Bayan Muna Party was founded in 2000, Jory was among its founding members. As party coordinator in Iloilo City, he actively engaged in developing good relations with local political leaders in Panay. He even was goaded into trying his luck at an elected position in the 2010 local elections, but lacking funds, it was a long shot.

But in 2016, Jory again found himself in government service. In barely a year, he assumed the coordination of the National Anti-poverty Commission and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Panay Island. As he left government in 1987, so he did in 2017.

“Jory is a great loss to the progressive movement for social transformation, but will inspire Bayan Muna members and all activists to persist in advancing New Politics against the tyrannical rule of the current administration. We will always remember you, Kaupod (Comrade) Jory, as we turn our grief into liberating courage,” former Bayan Muna Representative and current vice president for the Visayas Siegfred Deduro said in his tribute.

Jory Porquia (Supplied photo)

Loving father

Even in his very busy schedule as a social activist however, Jory was a loving father to his two children.

In announcing the death of his father this morning, Jory’s son Lean remembered when his father immediately flew to Manila when he needed someone to talk to. He said his dad always supported his decisions but always reminded him to ask himself, “Who is he doing it for?” Lean and his sister grew up sharing their father’s patriotism.

Lean raged at his father’s killing. “They killed my tatay (father) when all he wanted was to help the poor. They killed my tatay in the middle of a crisis when all he did was to give relief to those who need it. They killed my tatay, mercilessly. Nine gunshots to kill him, NINE! He was alone. He was defenseless,” he wrote on his Facebook wall.

But like his father’s friends and colleagues, Lean could not help but remember his father’s jolly nature and easy-going ways with the ordinary folk even when he was facing grave danger and great injustices. “You survived Martial Law. You went in and out of prison because you fought for other people’s rights. Despite that, you gave a smile on the faces of people you helped, people that I don’t know, people that I’m surprised to welcome you in their homes and share their meal, even if it’s just one small can of sardines. You brushed shoulders with bureaucrats, but only to remain grounded in advancing the welfare of the poor people in Iloilo,” he recalled.

At the time of his assassination, Lean revealed Jory was brewing a personal project that was close to his heart. “We were just talking last night about your plans of opening up a small restaurant. You even showed me all the papers are ready. You even took a picture of your own masterpiece dish and I told you to reserve some when I have the chance to go home,” he wrote.

“How can I go home and grieve? How can we cry for justice when justice is elusive for people who fight for justice? I can only place my rage in words that mean nothing to those who killed you,” Lean added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)