Calls for justice pour after attack on lawyer

Atty. Angelo Karlo Guillen (Photo courtesy of Panay Today)

By Joseph B.A. Marzan


Various quarters on Thursday asked for the swift resolution of the stabbing of a lawyer Wednesday evening in Iloilo City.

Atty. Rene Estocapio, president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) Panay Chapter, told Daily Guardian via text message that Atty. Angelo Karlo Guillen is now in stable condition at an Iloilo City hospital.

Guillen was stabbed with a screwdriver to the cheek at around 9 pm Wednesday. The screwdriver has already been removed via surgery Thursday afternoon, Estocapio said.

Guillen is the Secretary-General of NUPL Panay Chapter, as well as the national organization’s Assistant Vice President for Visayas.

Some of the recent cases he has been handling include the cases of Tumandoks in Capiz and one of the 37 petitions against Republic Act No. 11479 (Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020).

He is also involved in cases of progressive organizations and causes.

Guillen also had his fair share of bouts with state forces, having been arrested on May 1, 2020 for protesting the killing of Bayan-Panay organizer Jory Porquia.

As one of the petitioners against the Anti-Terror Law, he had also been “red-tagged” by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

He and other counsels in the petition were accused of being members or sympathizers of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its wings, the New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front (NDF).

In addition, the NUPL and its members had also been red-tagged by the NTF-ELCAC and other government authorities.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told ABS-CBN that his department will only conduct an investigation “if [Guillen] had good reason to believe that [the attack] was related to his advocacies”.

Guevarra said that he would then refer the matter to the Administrative Order (AO) 35 Task Force, which was created by the same issuance in 2012.

The task force is tasked to resolve cases of political violence in the form of extra-legal killings (ELK), enforced disappearances (ED), torture and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty and security of persons.




Reactions continued to flood in after the stabbing – from local officials and organizations, as well as fellow lawyers.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) to resolve the matter urgently.

“I am very much alarmed by the incident involving one of the lawyers along General Luna Street. Lawyers only do their function to protect their clients. As a lawyer myself, this is doubly important for to me to be solved. I call on our PNP to do everything possible to resolve this at the earliest possible time,” the mayor said in his statement to the media.

Iloilo City Lone District Representative Julienne Baronda also sent out a statement to the media condemning the attack.

“We condemn the violent attack against Atty. Angelo Karlo Guillen, who is a staunch defender of human rights.  I call on the Iloilo City Police Office to bring the perpetrators to justice at once. Peace and order must rule in Iloilo City,” said Baronda in her statement.

The NUPL, in addition to its statement just after the incident, held an online indignation rally in support of Guillen’s recovery and called for an end to the killings of lawyers in the country.

During the rally, Estocapio revealed that Guillen had been receiving threats which forced him to move to a different residence near the crime scene.

Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate also announced during the online rally that he will file a resolution in the House of Representatives calling for an investigation into the attack.

The online rally was joined by the various sectors, which have been aided by Guillen as counsel previously and in the present as well.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) called the incident a “criminality in the highest degree” in a media release.

“Inflicting violence on those who seek justice is criminality in the highest degree.  As IBP stands ready to help and cooperate with Atty. Guillen’s family, investigators, and law enforcers to identify, pursue, arrest, and resolutely prosecute the suspects, we highlight the primary role of government to secure its citizens and its international obligation to ensure that lawyers can do their job without fear, harassment, or retribution,” the IBP said in its statement.

Guillen’s uncle, Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Region VI Director Atty. Jose Edmund Guillen, echoed the IBP statement, saying “lawyers are not the enemies”.

“We lawyers are not the enemies. We also serve and protect so that especially those who have least in life will have more under the rule of law. We are also officers of the court in the administration of justice. To attack us because we are passionately doing our job is indeed criminality and impunity in the highest degree,” said the PAO chief in his personal Facebook page.

The IBP’s Iloilo Chapter also uploaded a separate statement on their Facebook page, urging authorities to “do their part” in investigating and pursuing the assailants.

“We, lawyers, only perform the duties we sworn to do and seek to uphold the rule of law regardless of who we represent. We are not cowered by the series of attacks against members of the Bench and the Bar, but we denounce the formative culture of subjecting lawyers to attack for enforcing the rights of the people,” IBP Iloilo said in its own statement.

Guillen’s co-counsels in the Anti-Terror Law petitions also released a statement on Thursday, calling on the Supreme Court “to take immediate measures to stop these attacks”, and also called on their fellow members of the Bar to “act against the attacks”.

The Supreme Court is the Constitutionally-mandated branch of the government regulating the practice of the legal profession.

“We call on all members of the legal profession to condemn the continuing attacks against lawyers and judges, including attacks against petitioners and their counsel in the ATA petitions. Beyond issuing statements of condemnation, we urge members of the legal profession and various law groups to launch a more active and militant response to these attacks,” the statement added.

The statement was signed by former Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz, Representative Edcel Lagman (Albay-1st), Atty. Howard Calleja, Atty. Neri Colmenares, Atty. Ephraim Cortez, Atty. Josalee Deinla, Atty. Algamar Latiph, Atty. Alfredo Molo III, and Atty. Evalyn G. Ursua.

Colmenares, Deinla, Lagman, Latiph, and Ursua also held a virtual press conference where they read out the statement.

All of them have stated during the virtual press conference their hope that this latest attack would be the last, even as they urged the executive, legislative, and judicial branches to act swiftly to address violence against lawyers and judges.

Ursua said that aside from Guillen, there have also been threats against co-counsels and petitioners against R.A. 11479.

“While we are having these oral arguments in the Supreme Court, the irony there is that there are threats, harassment, and red-tagging. We can expect that it will continue. As we have said, how many more attacks, how many more threats, how many more deaths before any action?” Ursua said.

IBP National President Atty. Domingo Egon Cayosa, who was also present during the press conference, said that the attack on Guillen stemmed from a culture of impunity, stating that many of the cases involving violence against lawyers have remained unresolved.

Cayosa added that he has already instructed IBP chapters to monitor the speed of disposition of the cases of violence against lawyers.

“The root of this attack, among other attacks, is the culture of impunity. When we look at the statistics over the past 20 years, many of the cases on attacks and killings of lawyers are still pending in the courts,” said Cayosa.