Filipino human rights lawyer survives deadly attack but loses all case files


Philippine human rights lawyer Angelo Karlo Guillen survived a vicious attack by unknown assailants by playing dead, but lost all his case files to two men who tried to kill him with screwdriver stabs to the head.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Friday (Mar. 05) said the incident had demonstrated the “chilling effect” of Red-tagging.

Guillen, 33, the assistant Vice President of the Visayas chapter of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) was working late Wednesday night (Mar. 03) and was walking from his car to his boarding house when he was attacked.

Guillen struggled against the assailants but pretended to be dead after one of his attackers stabbed him with a screwdriver, leaving it still embedded in his left temple when paramedics found him bleeding on a street in Iloilo City, according to one of his friends.

After Guillen stopped moving, the assailants who wore ski masks, fled on two motorcycles driven by two accomplices.

The assailants took his backpack with personal belongings and a shoulder bag containing his laptop, external disk for backup files and case documents. They did not take his wallet and smartphone, which were inside his pockets.

All the documents of all his cases were in the laptop and external disk, Guillen told his friend.

Guillen is one of the NUPL lawyers representing Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Karapatan, Movement Against Tyranny and other groups questioning the legality of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 in the Philippine Supreme Court.

He is also legal counsel for at least two of the 16 leaders and members of the Tumandok, the Panay-Bukidnon indigenous people, who were arrested in a coordinated police operation in Capiz and Iloilo provinces on Dec. 30, 2020.

Policemen killed nine Tumandok leaders who allegedly resisted when they were served search warrants for firearms and explosives.

Investigators are initially eyeing robbery as a motive for the attack but are also looking into the cases handled by Guillen.

Lawyer’s groups and progressive organizations believe the attack was made to appear as a simple robbery but was really intended to kill Guillen.

The NUPL believes the assailants also were after Guillen’s case documents.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines on Thursday condemned the “brazen and bloody assassination attempt” on Guillen, while Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Friday said the attack demonstrated the “chilling effect” of Red-tagging.

Aside from preparing for the cases of the arrested indigenous people’s leaders, Guillen was working on the case of Bayan-Panay secretary general Elmer Forro who is facing a murder complaint for allegedly being with a group of NPA rebels, which clashed with government troops in Lambunao town in Iloilo last April.

In a statement on Friday, Drilon said the attack on Guillen has proven the need for a stronger government policy against Red-tagging, which is the unproven accusation that a person or a group was part of the communist underground.

Both Guillen and the NUPL had been Red-tagged.

“The assassination attempt on Guillen is particularly disquieting in light of the issue on Red-tagging,” Drilon said. “His case lays the basis for the need for a stronger policy against Red-tagging.”

Guillen is currently recuperating in a hospital in Iloilo City. (Source: