House of Representatives

Opposition lawmakers seek House probe into attack vs lawyer in Iloilo

Mara Cepeda
Opposition lawmakers seek House probe into attack vs lawyer in Iloilo

STABBED. NUPL Panay Secretary General Angelo Karlo Guillen is stabbed in Iloilo City on Wednesday evening, March 3.

Photo by Panay Today

Six Makabayan and two LP legislators say Congress should 'lend its legislative hands and deflect the assault coming from the undemocratic elements of our society'

Eight opposition lawmakers are calling for a congressional probe into the brutal stabbing of Angelo Karlo Guillen, one of the lawyers in the dozens of petitions filed against the anti-terrorism law. 

In House Resolution (HR) No. 1639 filed on Tuesday night, March 9, 6 legislators from the Makabayan bloc and two stalwarts of the once-ruling Liberal Party (LP) urged the House committee on human rights to investigate the attack against Guillen in Iloilo City.

The authors of HR 1639 are the following:

  • Bayan Muna Representatives Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite, and Eufemia Cullamat
  • ACT Teachers Representative France Castro
  • Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas
  • Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago
  • Quezon City 6th District Representative Jose Christopher “Kit” Belmonte
  • Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman

“The brutal attack on Attorney Guillen, as well as other attacks and killings of lawyers, prosecutors, and judges, are attacks also to all rights defenders and to the legal profession, which demand a thorough and impartial investigation that should be conducted posthaste,” said the lawmakers in HR 1639.

On March 3, two still-unidentified assailants stabbed Guillen in the head and back before taking his bag and laptop, which contains files on the cases he’s handling. 

Guillen is the secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) in Panay.

He is representing the victims and their kin in several public interest and human rights cases, including the December 2020 killing of 9 Tumandok indigenous leaders in Panay, and the 9 sugarcane farmers allegedly murdered by private security personnel in Negros Occidental in October 2018.

He is also a co-counsel for one of the 37 petitions filed against the anti-terrorism law, which critics feared would be used by President Rodrigo Duterte’s government to go after dissenters. 

In HR 1639, the opposition legislators said Congress, as representatives of the people, are “duty-bound” to ensure that laws protect the rights of Filipinos, including their lawyers who are also “defenders of the people.”

“When members of the legal profession, especially those rendering pro bono services and public interest lawyers who counsel for the marginalized and underprivileged sectors in society, are under attack, Congress should be there, too, to also lend its legislative hands and deflect the assault coming from the undemocratic elements of our society,” said the lawmakers. 

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines earlier slammed the attack on Guillen as “criminality to the highest degree.”

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Malacañang considered the attack “as even more horrific since they are also attacking the rule of law.”

But Duterte himself – who is also a lawyer – has remained silent despite the spate of attacks and killings of his colleagues in the law profession.

Since Duterte rose to power, at least 56 judges, prosecutors, and lawyers have been killed between June 2016 to January 2021, but the Department of Justice said only 5 cases of lawyer killings have reached the courts. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.