April 17, 2023

ILOILO CITY – Ilonggo lawyer Angelo Karlo “AK” Guillen received his Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty in a private ceremony in New York last April 13, 2023.

The medal is given every two years to a non-US recipient by Human Rights First organization for “advancing the protection of human rights at great personal risk.”

“Angelo 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,” said Michael Breen, president and CEO of Human Rights First.

Guillen is the first Filipino to receive said award.

During his acceptance speech, Guillen paid tribute to “[his] colleagues and every Filipino human rights defender, especially those we have lost – either killed or abducted – as well as those whose liberties have been taken and those who remain behind bars, imprisoned by an unfair legal system.”

“Despite the dangers and challenges confronting us, human rights defenders and activists in the Philippines remain steadfast and passionate in their work. The reason they endure is the same reason the government wishes to silence us: Filipino activists represent an exploited people, and truly serving them ultimately means bringing the fight to change an unjust society,” he added.

Guillen is the current the Secretary General of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) – Panay. As a people’s lawyer, Guillen has handled several political cases, including the case of the Tumandoks who were arrested last December 30, 2020 in police and military operations, where nine indigenous leaders were killed. On March 2021, Guillen survived an assassination attempt from unidentified assailants while walking to his boarding house in Iloilo City. Days earlier, a key defense witness for the bloody Tumandok massacre was also killed.

After recovering from surgery, Guillen resumed his work as a people’s lawyer amid continuous red-tagging and surveillance.

“This extraordinary display of courage and defiance proves that dastardly attacks on people’s lawyers and human rights defenders are futilely intended to create fear and will ultimately fail to stop us from pursuing justice,” said NUPL President Ephraim B. Cortez.

“The award is a source of pride for the NUPL. It comes at a time when a new wave of lawyers has just hurdled the Bar exams, bringing formally on board a fresh batch of young, idealistic, and inspired human rights fighters in our arduous journey of using the law and the profession to serve the people,” Cortez added.//

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