On the night of Wednesday 3 March 2021, Philippine human rights lawyer Angelo Karlo Guillen became a victim of a near-fatal stabbing. Guillen represents Philippine activists and human rights defenders in court and is the Assistant Vice President of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL). Guillen was stabbed multiple times in the head and neck with a screwdriver as he walked from his car towards his boarding house.
He was chased by two unknown and masked perpetrators who attacked him. Two other men on motorcycles fled with the attackers. Guillen’s bag containing his laptop and case files were stolen. Other valuables such as his wallet and mobile phone were not taken. Guillen survived the attack by playing dead. Doctors had to remove a 25-centimeter screwdriver from his head, that was jammed into his skull.
Guillen was threatened and so-called ‘red-tagged’ many times. People who are red-tagged are blacklisted as either a communist or terrorist, regardless of their actual political beliefs or affiliations. The president of the Philipines, Rodrigo Duterte, has been leading the way on such practice, worsening the attacks and killings in the Philippines of critics of his administration.
As a lawyer Guillen represents 16 members of the indigenous Tumandok-tribe who were arrested for allegedly illegal possession of firearms and explosives, and for alleged links to communist rebels.
Guillen is also one of the lawyers who signed the legal petition of various groups led by the NUPL against the Anti-Terror Law. On July 19, 2020 the 10th petition against the Anti-Terror Law was filed. With the petition the Supreme Court is asked to issue a restraining order and to declare the Anti-Terror Law as unconstitutional in its entirety. The law defines ‘terrorism’ so vaguely, people who only mildly criticize the government can already be labelled as terrorists. This worsens the attacks on human rights defenders including human rights lawyers. Unsurprisingly, all 37 petitioners have been red-tagged.
Guillen is one of many lawyers who have been harassed and abused under the regime of president Duterte. Many lawyers before him have also been harassed, abused and even murdered. This case is one of the many examples proving that lawyers in the Philippines are not able to do their job without fear, harassment or retribution.