MANILA – The human rights lawyer recently attacked in Iloilo City was earlier red-tagged, the chair of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said Friday, doubting that robbery was the motive.
The stabbing attack left NUPL Panay secretary-general Angelo Karlo Guillen with serious wounds on his head, while the masked assailants are still at large.
“Atty. Guillen was red-tagged previously dahil sa legal services na pino-provide niya sa mga victims ng human rights violations. He was also counsel to many policy issues na hindi sang-ayon [not aligned with] sa Malacañang policy. Hindi namin maubos maisip paano naging robbery ito dahil sa aming tinging ‘yung (We are wondering how this could have been a robbery when we see that) red-tagging is already the prelude,” said former Bayan Muna Party-list sectoral lawmaker Neri Colmenares.
In an interview on ANC’s Headstart, Colmenares said the pattern of attacks on human rights defenders and activists points to state security forces and the government.
Colmenares said the pattern includes public vilification before a victim is attacked. He said that most of the extra-judicial killings were also committed in public places.
“The third part of the pattern is the complete lack of interest to investigate or prosecute on the part of the government whether it’s EJK for killing of drug suspect or EJK for killing of activists— libo-libo na, wala kaming nakikitang substantial investigation, prosecution dyan (we’ve seen thousands of cases that had no substantial investigation or prosecution).”
He said this is what they believe, as there are no conclusive investigations of cases, and calls for an independent probe to be conducted, for instance by the International Criminal Court, have been turned down by the government.
“He has been subject of attacks already before this. I’m not really optimistic on the investigation of the police here that’s why we’ve always been demanding if government is saying it’s not true that they are related, allow an independent investigation on these issues,” said Colmenares.
Guillen sustained multiple stab wounds in the head and on his back after two masked men attacked him as he was getting off his car.
Police said Guillen tried to run away but the 2 men caught up with him after the lawyer tripped and fell on the ground. He was then stabbed multiple times, and the suspects fled, taking with them Guillen’s bag ang laptop.
Another colleague at NUPL, lawyer Josa Deinla, said the attack on Guillen was premeditated.
“They were waiting for him in the dark and they also had getaway vehicles prepared to take them in case they had to flee. And also, we gathered that there was a barangay kagawad who responded to the scene because Atty. AK was able to shout “tabang” or help. A barangay official responded to his call for help and that rattled perhaps the perperators. They fled immediately,” said Deinla.
Deinla said Guillen has been red-tagged a number of times. His picture even landed on an anti-communist poster where he was labeled as a defender of terrorists. She said Guillen had also observed several unidentified men tailing and surveilling him prompting him to change his residence.
Deinla said they are not overreacting and know for sure that the incident was state-perpetuated.
“Just think of who will benefit from killing Atty. AK. It is the state who will benefit from killing a people’s lawyer,” she said.
Malacañang has condemned the attack and ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the case. But Colmenares said the Palace issues statements only when there is public outrage.
“Even those statements do not bring us comfort especially since tuloy-tuloy ang red tagging (red tagging) continues. Kung sincere kayo, ihinto n’yo itong red tagging because it’s a signal to those kung sino man ‘yung teams na ‘yun, execute these human rights activists or lawyers dito sa Pilipinas,” said Colmenares.
(If you’re sincere, stop red tagging because it’s a signal to those, the teams who execute human rights activists and lawyers in the Philippines.)
Meanwhile, Deinla said Guillen is now on the road to recovery.
“We received good news that he is doing well and already conscious. He is already taking regular diet at the ICU. Yesterday, he underwent minor surgery to repair damage that he sustained on the face. Thankfully, the screwdriver hit the hardest part of the face,” said Deinla in an interview on ANC’s Matters of Fact.
But they are not taking any chances and made sure that Guillen has security detail at the hospital.
“We made sure na merong nakadetalyeng security doon to make sure na hindi itutuloy ‘yung assassination attempt sa hospital,” she said.
(We made sure he had security detail to make sure there won’t be an assassination attempt in the hospital.)
Guillen, also NUPL’s vice president for Visayas, has handled several political cases including the case of the indigenous Tumandok who were arrested last year in police and military operations, where 9 indigenous leaders were killed.
He was also part of the team that conducted a fact-finding mission in Sagay City, Negros Occidental following the killings of 9 sugarcane farmers in Oct. 2018.
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