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Members of the NUPL dared to defy the status quo and to stand against the tide of tyranny.

The genesis of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) emerged from the urgent need for a structured response to the grave human rights violations during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration. These violations, encompassing extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and political persecution, coupled with the imminent enactment of the repressive Republic Act No. 9372 (Human Security Act of 2007), highlighted the pressing necessity for organized legal intervention and advocacy.

Human rights lawyers have historically navigated legal challenges independently, deploying their expertise through individual efforts or affiliations with law firms, people’s organizations, or grassroots movements. Despite aligning within regional or local groups, their actions have been dictated by situational demands and organizational mandates. A unified organization to consolidate their efforts remained elusive.

Thus, the NUPL was conceived as a nationwide voluntary association of human rights lawyers as well as lawyers from mainstream bar groups or traditional legal practice who have expressed interest in human rights lawyering and advocacy in various degrees and capacities. It was envisioned to be a mechanism to coordinate or facilitate legal services and advocacy to ultimately thwart and defeat malicious and politically motivated legal offensives and oppressive state actions against the poor and the marginalized. Membership extended to law students, paralegals, and legal workers. 

The Founding Congress marked a watershed moment in Philippine legal history.

The Founding Congress was more than a mere gathering; it was a crucible of ideas, a forge where the steel of dissent was tempered into the sword of justice. Founding members laid the groundwork for a new era of legal activism.

The Founding Congress of NUPL, held on September 15-16, 2007, marked a significant gathering, drawing 140 attendees who included legal luminaries such as Vice-President Teofisto Guingona, Supreme Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez representing Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno. 

Atty. Capulong, a former judge at litem at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), presented the concept of people’s lawyering and its significance amidst increasing human rights abuses. He remarked: “There is nothing more fulfilling than to be devoted in defending our clients and people who work for social change. We shall be with themwas they embark on militant actions, engage in empowering undertakings and in the process, strengthen and further unite their ranks. Our commitment to our struggling people is what makes us people’s lawyers.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno also addressed the audience, highlighting the forthcoming approval of the rules on the writs of amparo and habeas data. He emphasized the vital role of human rights lawyering in the fight for human dignity and freedom and praised the courage of people’s lawyers. He said:  

“By calling yourselves the ‘people’s lawyer,’ you have made a remarkable choice. You decided not to remain in the sidelines. Where human rights are assaulted, you have chosen to sacrifice the comfort of the fence to the dangers of the battlefield. But only those who choose to fight on the battlefield live beyond irrelevance… Let us set the bar for human rights and responsibilities high. Let our sharp thoughts and our ironclad will bring forth justice to the villages all over the country, so that we may find some sense of meaning – a sense of justice in our lives.” 

NUPL 2nd Congress

On September 20, 2010, NUPL held its Second Congress themed “Advance the role of peoples’ lawyers in the struggle for human rights: Expand and consolidate our ranks to prosecute human rights violations and to end impunity” in Pasay City.

NUPL 3rd Congress

NUPL’s Third Congress, with the theme, “Consolidating our Ranks to Defend, Protect and Advance our People’s Rights, Resist the State’s Various Schemes to Violate Human Rights” was held in Bacolod City on November 30 - December 1, 2013.

NUPL 4th Congress

The Fourth Congress, held in Legazpi City on October 15-16, 2016, was themed “Defend the People’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as We Intensify our Defense of Civil and Political Rights.”

NUPL 5th Congress

NUPL celebrated its Fifth Congress themed “Conquering Challenges in People’s Lawyering in Manila on October 19, 2019.

NUPL 5th Congress

NUPL celebrated 15 years of people’s lawyering during the Sixth Congress on October 15-16, 2022 in Quezon City.

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Across six (6) congresses, NUPL has staunchly upheld its objectives, offering pro bono legal services in strategic human rights litigations and engaging in non-litigative actions such as community education, legislative advocacy, and legal research. It has championed the protection of lawyers’ welfare and remains a pivotal force in promoting social justice and national liberation amidst the enduring challenges faced under the current presidency of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. 

The National Office

The NUPL National Office is home to the national secretariat and a team of dedicated lawyers. It oversees the implementation of NUPL programs across all chapters and regional coordinative bodies. 

Meet our Lawyers

Atty. Edre U. Olalia

Atty. Ephraim B. Cortez

Atty. Julian F. Oliva 


Atty. Josalee S. Deinla

Atty. Katherine A. Panguban

Atty. Julianne B. Agpalo


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