Responding to news that a lawyer handling cases against human rights defenders and activists – including members of the Tumandok community who were arrested during the December 2020 raid in Panay that killed 9 community members – was seriously injured after being stabbed by unidentified individuals on 3 March, Section Director Butch Olano said:
“We are deeply alarmed by the escalating and deadly attacks in Panay Island. Since December 2020, nine Tumandoks and a village chief – Julie Catamin – have been killed. Now a lawyer from a progressive group – Angelo Karlo Guillen – was attacked and seriously injured.”
“The victims have one thing in common – they were red-tagged or belonged to groups that were red-tagged by the government prior to the attacks. Despite veritable proof that this practice has led to violent attacks and killings of activists and human rights defenders, the government’s anti-insurgency campaign that does not distinguish between armed combatants and peaceful government critics shows no sign of letting up.
Various groups have also pointed out that dozens of lawyers, judges and prosecutors have been killed since 2016. With thousands upon thousands killed under the government’s ‘war on drugs’, and the hundreds of activists and human rights defenders murdered because of their work, this legacy of killings by the Duterte administration must be condemned on all fronts. It must end now.
“The authorities must step up efforts to end the growing violence and lawlessness once and for all. They must launch impartial and effective investigations into attacks and killings, including of Catamin and the Tumandoks, as well as the attack against Guillen, and bring all those responsible to justice in fair trials. The government must end its deadly practice of red-tagging and ensure a safe and enabling environment for all human rights defenders.”
On 3 March, lawyer and National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) Panay secretary-general Angelo Karlo Guillen was violently attacked in Iloilo City by two individuals wearing masks. Guillen sustained stab wounds in the head and back, and was brought to the hospital. The NUPL said the cases handled by Guillen included those against activists arrested during police raids in Bacolod City in 2019, as well as the Tumandok community members arrested in Panay in December 2020 during a raid that killed nine people. He is also a counsel of one the groups petitioning the Supreme Court to nullify the Anti-Terrorism Act.
On 28 February, Roosevelt village chief Julie Catamin was shot dead by motorcycle-riding assailants in Calinog town, Iloilo province. Before this, Catamin accused the police of fabricating evidence against those arrested during the raid against the Tumandoks; she was also supposed to serve as a defense witness for the 16 Tumandoks arrested.