DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/13 May) — Lawyer Frederico M. Gapuz, the founding chailr of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) passed away Saturday afternoon in his home in Alubijid, Misamis Oriental due to lingering illness, the UPLM said in a statement issued Sunday.
He was 77 years old.
“UPLM is deeply saddened by the loss of Atty. Gapuz, fondly called Tatay or Manong, for his inspiring and exemplary commitment as peoples’ lawyer, nationalist and defender of peoples’ rights spanning six decades,” the statement read.
Gapuz served as UPLM chair from its founding in July 2005 until his death.
In 2008, he was also elected as the National President of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL). He was later elevated as the President Emeritus of NUPL.
Gapuz was also among the leaders of the Concerned Lawyers’ Union of Mindanao for Nationalism (COLUMN), founded in 2004 while still under martial law.
UPLM was organized in July 2005 to respond to the needs of the times, for more lawyers to attend to a seemingly ever increasing number of cases of human rights violations in Mindanao.
That’s what “human rights lawyers” of Mindanao did in 1984, when they organized COLUMN, that’s what “peoples’ lawyers” or public interest lawyers did in 2005.
“This is a big continuation,” Gapuz told MindaNews in 2005. He was 71 then, a veteran of the parliamentary of the streets.
At that time, Gapuz cited one difference between COLUMN and UPLM: “when we were in COLUMN, we were concerned primarily on legal defense but right now, we in UPLM… we must not only legally defend them but we must help our people understand the structure that may have given rise to the situation because whether we like it or not, do we really have a democracy? No we have an autocracy, an elite democracy.”
UPLM said that aside from COLUMN, Gapuz was also active in the Movement for Civil Liberaties.
“As a nationalist, he once said that his blood boils when he senses oppression and exploitation. As an aspiring lawyer in the 50’s, he was already at the forefront in the fight against the American Parity Rights and the US military bases,” the statement read.
“As UPLM chair, he lent a strong voice in Mindanao campaigns for defense of human rights and respect of social justice amidst threats of impunity and militarism in the island,” UPLM said, adding Gapuz had shown “that peoples’ lawyering is a lifetime devotion for the poor who need their rights to be defended.” (MindaNews)