Lawyer’s fight for human rights continues after attack
ILOILO CITY, Iloilo, Philippines — The attack may have weakened him but he is not cowed.
Lawyer Angelo Karlo “AK” Guillen, who was found bloodied on a dark street in this city with a screwdriver embedded in his left temple on Thursday night, said his resolve to continue working for peasants and small workers has not diminished.
“Though difficult, we can never let fear prevent us from fighting the battles that must be fought; and the cause of human rights is certainly one worth fighting for,” said Guillen on Sunday in a first statement he issued from an undisclosed hospital in the city.
“I can’t wait to get back out there and stand beside you again. Take care to you all!,” added Guillen, the assistant vice president in the Visayas of the legal group National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).
Road less traveled
Guillen, 33, could have chosen a lucrative law practice.
But the valedictorian of Iloilo City’s University of San Agustin College of Law (USA-CL) Class of 2013 chose to take the road less traveled to be able to help victims of human rights violations and injustice.
The attack on Guillen came about two years after his photograph was included in a poster of supposed communist lawyers and paralegals on Panay Island that was plastered on the streets of Iloilo City in December 2018.
Guillen took precautions but didn’t slow down in his work, said NUPL vice president for Visayas Rene Estocapio.
Guillen represented activists and human rights defenders who were arrested in Bacolod City in Negros Occidental in October 2019 and took part in the fact-finding mission in Negros Oriental in 2019 after 14 mostly farmers were killed in police operations.
The lawyer was also with 41 activists who were arrested in Iloilo City on May 1 last year following a rally to protest the killing of local Bayan Muna leader Jose Reynaldo “Jory” Porquia.
At present, he is the legal counsel for two of the 16 Tumandok tribe leaders arrested in Capiz on Dec. 30 last year; and is among the lawyers in one of the 37 petitions against the antiterror law now pending before the Supreme Court.
Guillen was walking to his boarding house, about 500 meters from the Iloilo City Police Office, when attacked by two masked men on March 4. He ran but tripped, giving one of the attackers a chance to repeatedly stab him in the head.
The assailants took Guillen’s backpack and sling bag that contained his laptop, external drive and case documents.
Lawyers, law students, human rights advocates and public officials lauded Guillen for providing pro bono services to the marginalized.
Lawyer Edre Olalia, NUPL president, said Guillen was “one of the best and brightest among the boldest and youngest lawyers.”
Dean Jose Mari Benjamin Francisco Tirol of USA-CL said Guillen was “down to earth, unpretentious and humble but very brilliant.”
Guillen, a political science graduate of the University of the Philippines Visayas in Iloilo, told the Inquirer in an email interview that he decided to become a rights lawyer because “it is difficult to ignore injustices around us and poor people in need of our help.”