âShameless act of state terrorâ: Groups condemn attack on yet another rights lawyer
File - Protesters gather at the University of the Philippine Diliman campus on June 12, 2020 to call for the veto of the anti-terrorism bill.
Philstar.com/Deejae Dumlao

‘Shameless act of state terror’: Groups condemn attack on yet another rights lawyer

(Philstar.com) - March 4, 2021 - 1:28pm

MANILA, Philippines (Update 3, 8:26 p.m.) — An international rights group on Thursday accused security forces of going on a "murder spree" following the stabbing of a lawyer representing arrested indigenous land defenders and the murder of a "key witness" to the case.

Angelo Karlo Guillen, National Union of People's Lawyers assistant vice president for the Visayas, who is also assisting in anti-terrorism law petitions, is now "in stable condition," per a statement from Karapatan, after he was stabbed by two unidentified men in the head and in the shoulder in Iloilo City on Wednesday night. 

The attempt on Gullen's life was denounced by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines which noted that the attack occurred "[l]ess than a week" after the murder of Julie Catamin who was identified in an Inquirer report as a "key witness" to a deadly operation carried out by security forces against Tumandok tribe members.

The simultaneous police and military operations, carried out on December 30, led to the arrest of 18 Tumandok land defenders and the deaths of nine more. 

"We condemn the political killing of a community hero and the murder attempt on the life of human rights lawyer on Panay, Western Visayas in the Philippines,” said ICHRP Global Council Chairperson Peter Murphy.

“The political killing of Julie Catamin and the stabbing of Guillen are all calculated to silence witnesses and lawyers who would dispute police and military claims about the deadly events of December 30,” he added.

“It is a shameless act of state terror." 


Like other lawyers and activists who have been violently attacked, Karapatan said Guillen was red-tagged as early as December 2018.

More than two years ago, the group said, "Guillen’s photo was included in posters placed around Iloilo City, tagging him along with leaders and members of various organizations, as members of the New People’s Army."

"Slain activist Jory Porquia and Atty. Cris Heredia, who survived a shooting attack in September 2019, along with [Karapatan Vice Chairperson Reylan Vergara] and another Karapatan human rights worker Leeboy Garachico, were among those in the said posters."

NUPL in a separate statement said that Guillen was previously arrested after responding to 42 activists who were detained while protesting the Porquia's killing. 

Vergara called on the Commission on Human Rights and the Supreme Court to immediately launch an unbiased probe on Guillen's attempted murder.

"This is a cowardly and desperate act, a cheap antic which can only be done by those who have the motive to silence Guillen, and all other human rights lawyers and rights defenders."

Amnesty International in its own statement also called for an impartial investigation on the attacks and renewed its call on the government "to end its deadly practice of red-tagging." 

"Despite veritable proof that this practice has led to violent attacks and killings of activists and human rights defenders, the government’s anti-insurgency campaign that does not distinguish between armed combatants and peaceful government critics shows no sign of letting up," Amnesty International Section Director Butch Olano said.

'Attack on rule of law'

Asked to comment on the matter, Malacañang said it condemned the stabbing of Guillen "in the same manner" that it does "any attack that seeks to violate the right to life."

"[W]e consider this attack on a lawyer even more abominable because they are attacking our rule of law," presidential spokesman Harry Roque, also a lawyer, added in Filipino during a televised briefing.

"This is why we are ordering our police, our [National Bureau of Investigation] to investigate this case and to punish the people behind this attempt to slay our fellow lawyer and our brother in profession," he added in Filipino.

In startling contrast to his spokesman's remarks, President Rodrigo Duterte has consistently signaled apathy, if not disdain, towards human rights when addressing the police and the military who he regularly orders to kill suspected drug addicts, communist rebels, and even violators of the pandemic-induced quarantine.

— Bella Perez-Rubio with a report from Kristine Joy Patag 

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