Neri Colmenares

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Neri Javier Colmenares (born 4 December 1959) is a Filipino human rights lawyer and activist. He is the chairman of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), vice president of the Confederation of Lawyers in Asia and the Pacific (COLAP), co-chairperson of Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan (Makabayan Bloc), and one of the main organizers of the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL). He is also a former Bayan Muna party-list representative, and former associate of the Asian Law Centre at Melbourne Law School. He also lectured on International Human Rights Law and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court at the University of Melbourne. He is considered as one of the country’s experts on Universal Jurisdiction by the Amnesty International.


Early Life and Education

Colmenares was born on 4 December 1959 in Bacolod, Negros Occidental. He finished his Bachelor of Arts in Economics at San Beda College and completed his law degree at the University of the Philippines and was awarded the Distinguished Alumni for Public Service in 2015. he also studied his masters degree at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Colmenares was part of the struggle against former president Ferdinand Marcos’ leadership in 1976. He was active in the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP). He was the Visayas Regional Chair of the Student Catholic Action of the Philippines (SCAP).

He was arrested after he had just been elected as National Council Member of the SCAP. He was among the youngest political detainees during Martial Law. He was heavily tortured for six days.

After a year, he was charged with illegal possession of firearms, but the case was dismissed because there was no confiscated firearm presented in the court. He moved to Manila and volunteered for several religious organizations.

He moved to Cagayan Valley in 1983 and became a youth organizer there. After five months, he was arrested and charged with “rebellion.” He was detained for three years. He was released in 1986, after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship.

Career

In his early years as a lawyer, Colmenares handled civil cases, mostly on marital separations and annulment. He also spent much of his time handling human rights cases.

He acted as counsel before the Supreme Court in oral arguments against the following:

  • Constitutionality of the Calibrated Pre-emptive Response (CPR)
  • The initiative to amend the Constitution (the Charter Change case)
  • Executive Order 464 (the Executive Privilege case)
  • The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA case)
  • Proclamation 1017 (the Emergency Rule case)
  • Meralco’s record-high power rate hike after the 2013 Malampaya shutdown
  • Anti-terrorism law
  • Urban militarization
  • National Identification System
  • Writ of Amparo
  • Bilateral Immunity Agreement
  • Bayan Muna petition to declare all major political parties disqualified in the party-list elections
  • First Party Rule, which resulted in the entry of new party-list representatives in the Congress
  • Compensation of human rights violations victims in the Ferdinand Marcos human rights case in 1998
  • Constitutionality of the Peoples Initiative of Sigaw ng Bayan in the Lambino vs Commission on Elections (Comelec) case
  • To stop the heroes burial for Marcos in 2016
  • Questioned the legality of the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JSMU) that Arroyo signed with Vietnam and China

Colmenares has been Bayan Muna’s general counsel since the party’s inception. He was elected the party’s third nominee in the 2007 elections but he only assumed his post when the SC granted the petition to declare the First Party Rule unconstitutional.

He was a co-author of the two impeachment complaints filed against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2005 and 2006; impeachment of then Ombudsman Merceditas Navarro Gutierrez, mainly on the fertilizer scam case and the euro generals case; and one of the prosecutors in the impeachment trial of former SC Chief Justice Renato Corona which led to the latter’s removal in 2012.

He was a Bayan Muna Representative from 2009 to 2016. He authored several laws such as:

  • RA 10639: The law requiring warnings through text during typhoons and disasters
  • RA 10633: The law creating Special Election Precincts for persons with disabilities and senior citizens
  • RA 10380: The law allowing media to vote before election day
  • RA 10368: Reparation Law for human rights victims during Martial Law
  • RA 9745: Anti-Torture Law
  • RA 10353: Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law
  • RA 10862: Law on the Practice of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Social Security System (SSS) Pension Increase Bill
  • Anti-political Dynasty Act of 2013

During the 15th Congress, Colmenares was a member of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Automated Elections and Vice-Chairman of the House Suffrage Committee and member of the Foreign Affairs, Defense, Natural Resources, Trade and Industry, Constitutional Amendment, Local Government, Human Rights, and Revision of Laws Committees. He was also a member of the Committee on Rules and was the Senior Deputy Minority Leader in the 16th Congress.

Colmenares presently holds the following positions:

  • Co-chairperson, Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan
  • Chairperson, Bayan Muna Partylist
  • Bureau Member, International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL)
  • Vice-President, Confederation of Lawyers in Asia-Pacific (COLAP)
  • Convenor, Samahan at Ugnayan ng mga Konsyumer para sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan (SUKI) Consumers Group

Among his papers were:

  • A primer on the Writ of Habeas Data
  • Comparative Analysis of the Writ of Amparo
  • Impeachment as a Constitutional Accountability Mechanism
  • Party List System Law
  • International Criminal Court
  • Articles for the Philippine Law Journal

Colmenares was the associate editor of the World Bulletin of the UP Law Center on the issue of international crimes. He lectures in the Supreme Court Mandatory Continuing Legal Education program for Philippine lawyers on the following topics:

  • Impeachment jurisprudence and constitutional law
  • The Party List System: Representing the Marginalized in Court Litigation and Congressional Work
  • Appellate Oral Advocacy
  • Writ of Amparo
  • Writ of Habeas Data
  • International Criminal Court: International Human Rights and IHL in perspective
  • Amending the Constitution: The Chacha Cases
  • The Human Security Act: Criminal Law and Political Law Jurisprudence
  • Whistleblowers Act and Freedom of Information Law: Corruption and Transparency
  • Legislative Work for Lawyers
  • The party list law: Comelec Accreditation and Electoral Campaign
  • Amnesty and the peace process: Law and Jurisprudence

Colmenares’ first senate attempt was in 2016. In 2019, he ranked 24th. He filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for senator in the 2022 polls on 7 October 2021, under the Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan (Makabayan) bloc. On his third attempt at the legislative post, he hit the government’s failed pandemic response and vowed to push for free mass testing and a strengthened contact tracing system.

Among his agendas are the following:

  • Repeal the excise tax in TRAIN Law
  • Pass a law to prevent contractualization
  • Pension for all Filipino senior citizens
  • Repeal of the value-added tax (VAT) on oil products, electricity, and water
  • Oppose any attempt at charter change
  • Oppose aggression of China in the West Philippine Sea
  • Against incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte’s extrajudicial killings and lowering the age of criminal responsibility


References



Citation

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