Home news ICHRP denounces police murder spree of witness, lawyer in Panay, PH

ICHRP denounces police murder spree of witness, lawyer in Panay, PH

ICHRP denounces police murder spree of witness, lawyer in Panay, PH

“We condemn the political killing of a community hero and the murder attempt on the life of human rights lawyer on Panay, Western Visayas in the Philippines” said Mr Peter Murphy of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP). 

Less than a week after the murder of Julie Catamin who is a star witness in the defence of the falsely charged Tumandok leaders, their legal counsel Atty. Angelo Karlo Guillen was stabbed in the head and shoulder with a screwdriver by masked assailants in Iloilo City on the evening of March 3. 

Guillen represents the arrested Tumandok indigenous people facing false weapons and explosives charges last December 30, 2020.

“The political killing of Julie Catamin and the stabbing of Guillen are all calculated to silence witnesses and lawyers who would dispute police and military claims about the deadly events of December 30,” said Mr Murphy. “It is a shameless act of state terror.

“While Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra was telling the United Nations Human Rights Council last that ‘the PH strongly emphasizes its legal and judicial system, its domestic accountability mechanisms are functioning as they should’, security forces in Panay were organizing the murder of Catamin and now the attack on Guillen,” said Mr Murphy. “The international community cannot tolerate this brazen duplicity.”

Dedicated human rights lawyer Guillen serves as counsel for farmers, indigenous people and rights defenders. He is also a lawyer in the petition of groups led by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) against the anti-terror law. And, he currently serves as NUPL’s assistant vice president for the Visayas (Central Philippines).

In last year’s Labor day, Guillen was arrested by authorities while responding to illegally arrested 42 activists for protesting the political killing of community leader Jory Porquia.

Ms Julie Catamin, aged 49, is LGBTI and the Barangay Captain of Barangay Roosevelt, in Tapaz. While they were riding home on their motorcycle at 8.45am on Sunday February 28, 2021, they were shot by tandem riders of another motorcycle. They died later that day in hospital.

In a December 30 post on their Facebook page, Catamin accused the police who arrested four residents of their village of planting firearms and explosives. “They were arrested and handcuffed. Bullets and firearms were planted and their houses were destroyed. Where is justice? I am appealing for help from any government agency that can help me,” Catamin said in their post. Instead, government agencies killed them.

On February 25, 2021, Catamin was invited by a Lt Estrada to visit the headquarters of the 12th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in Calinog, Iloilo. The military said that they knew about the residents of Brgy. Roosevelt asking Bayan Muna for help, along with lawyers and Church institutions, which they alleged were being used by the New People’s Army. Because of this, Lt. Estrada threatened that events similar to the mass arrests on December 30 could also happen to Catamin’s community.

The sixteen members of Tumandok tribe were arrested by a combined force of 500 police and soldiers in a raid at 4am last December 30. In the same operation, state authorities executed nine Tumandok leaders which is now known as the Tumandok massacre. 

The recent arrests and mass murder of the Tumandok people are included in the long list of human rights cases being heard in the global initiative Investigate PH. The investigation seeks to look into cases of killings of those allegedly involved in drug trade/use and the persecution of human rights defenders, farmers and indigenous people like that of the Tumandok case. 

The Tumandok communities have been opposing the Jalaur River Mega Dam project, funded by the South Korean Exim Bank and to be built by Daewoo S&E, since 2011.#