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MANILA, Philippines – Filipino lawyer Angelo Karlo Guillen is set to receive a top human rights award for his relentless work in the face of threats and harassment, including an assassination attempt in 2021.
Guillen is the winner of the 2022 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty, established in 1989 in honor of the founder of American Civil Liberties Union and the International League for Human Rights.
Human Rights First president and CEO Michael Breen said that the award has “brought recognition and support to extraordinary activists who are advancing the protection of human rights at great personal risk.”
“Guillen is a courageous and effective advocate whose work has made a difference in the lives of his fellow Filipinos and put a spotlight on abuses and calling for accountability,” he added.
The lawyer, who serves as secretary-general of National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) in Panay, survived an attack carried out by still unidentified men in Iloilo City in March 2021. The incident prompted Filipino lawyers to consolidate and demand action from the Supreme Court.
Guillen was a lawyer in one of the petitions filed against the controversial anti-terror law. Prior to the incident, members of his organization have also been repeatedly red-tagged.
In a statement, Guillen said he accepts the award on behalf of human rights lawyers and defenders in the country who are facing challenges. He also highlighted the situation of the marginalized sectors who bear the brunt of violations, and hoped that the recognition “will bring attention to their plight.”
“This award will encourage us even more, to continue our work defending human rights and civil liberties in the Philippines, even in these difficult times,” he said.
In a June 2021 interview for Rappler’s Law of Duterte Land podcast, Guillen told justice reporter Lian Buan that the rampant red-tagging was disconcerting and very upsetting because you would never know when the attack would take place and in what form.
“Apart of the fear, it also triggered a lot of anger [and] we also use that to drive ourselves to become even more resistant and to take in more work,” he said.
“There’s also that effect of pushing you to do more,” Guillen added.
Guillen’s experience reflect the general culture of impunity seen under the administration of Rodrigo Duterte, which many fear will continue under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
At least 66 lawyers, prosecutors, and judges were killed from July 2016 to June 21, 2022. This number surpassed the numbers of victims under previous presidents. – Rappler.com