Karapatan condemns attack vs red-tagged lawyer in Iloilo

Karapatan strongly condemns the attack against human rights lawyer Atty. Angelo Karlo “AK” Guillen, who was stabbed last night in Iloilo City.

“We condemn the attack on Atty. Guillen, and we call on the Commission on Human Rights and the Supreme Court to conduct an immediate and impartial investigation on this attempt on Atty. Guillen’s life,” said Karapatan Vice Chairperson Reylan Vergara.

Guillen is now in stable condition after suffering from stab wounds in the left temple and shoulder. CCTV footages released through the media show that two masked men attacked Guillen in a dimly lit street. He initially struggled but was stabbed when he fell to the ground. The men, as if as an after-thought, took Guillen’s bag and immediately left by back-riding on two motorcycles, which were clearly on standby as escape vehicles.

“We simply cannot dismiss this incident as a petty street crime or robbery. Guillen's attackers obviously had the intent to kill him, targetting him in the head and upper body,” Vergara said.

“Atty. Guillen is a young, intelligent, diligent and selfless lawyer who participated in fact-finding missions and provided much needed legal assistance to underprivileged clients, farmworkers, peasants and rights defenders in Panay and Negros,” he added.

Karapatan also said that Guillen, who is also assistant vice president for Visayas of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), has been a victim of red-tagging. In December 2018, 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 Vergara himself and another Karapatan human rights worker Leeboy Garachico, were among those in the said posters.

Guillen then said in a statement, “authors of these materials, therefore, are terribly mistaken if they think — even for a second — that the members of NUPL would quiver in fear or reticence because of this incident. We will not.”

“This is the kind of spirit that the attackers of Atty. Guillen are afraid of. 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,” said Vergara.

The NUPL, in a statement signed by their vice president for Visayas Atty. Rene Estocapio, said “Atty. Guillen serves as counsel in various public interest and human rights cases such as one of the 37 petitions questioning the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. He also represents activists and human rights defenders facing trumped up charges in court including the activists arrested during the police raids in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental in October 2019 and the Tumandoks arrested in Panay in December 2020. On Labor Day last year, he was arrested after responding to the illegal arrest of 42 activists who were protesting the extrajudicial killing of Bayan Muna Iloilo coordinator Jory Porquia.”

“The attempt on Guillen's life becomes another reason for alarm. We are called to defend the defenders, stand by them, because despite fear and threats, they stand with us,” Vergara said.