angie katohAngelina “Angie” Ludovice-Katoh's life is testimony that one of the best ways to hone leadership is to subject it to adverse conditions. 

Angie has never had an easy life, but it is a life distinguished by achievement and leadership even from the start. Born to an impoverished family in Tagansule, Malalag, Davao del Sur, Angie did not grow up with much by way of material comforts. And yet, she was consistently at the top of her class – graduating valedictorian in grade school, and first honor in high school. With her sterling academic credentials, Angie could have aspired for and obtained a more comfortable life in the capital, but her days as a student activist and campus leader have instilled in her the passion to work with those who have less. 

After her college studies, she became a trade union organizer and a community facilitator, working closely with labor unions, primarily through the National Federation of Labor (NFL). As a mass leader, she spoke passionately about labor rights and stood at picket lines to defend these rights when under incursion even at the risk of personal safety and liberty. At the height of labor disputes in Mindanao in the 80s, she was arrested for defending the workers from a group of armed men who tried to break the picket line. Angie spent a few days in prison and would have been kept there, had it not been for the intervention of influential religious leaders in Mindanao who spoke on her behalf.

From 2001-2011, Angie was the Executive Director of the Alternative Center for Organizational Reforms and Development, Inc. (ACORD), a non-government organization dedicated towards pushing for policy reforms in governance so that spaces may be created for the marginalized. She championed in particular the cause of the urban poor and women workers in the informal economy. All these she did in the bosom of her beloved Mindanao, moving fearlessly in places such as Davao, Cotabato and Zamboanga, spreading the message of peace and paticipatory governance in a land wracked by conflict.

When AKBAYAN was formed in 1998, Angie was one of its founding members, finding in the organization an interface with her personal life-values.

While Angie would have preferred to stay under the radar, her efforts did not go unrecognized even on the national level. She is the recipient of several awards given by various bodies, the most prestigious being the Bayi Citation for Exemplary Women in Politics in Governance which had also been previously given to Governor Vilma Santos-Recto and Former Congresswoman Risa Hontiveros.  In further recognition of her contributions, she was designated this year as Commissioner of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor.

Indeed, Angie as AKBAYAN's fearless daughter from the South will bring to Congress what the Mindanaoans truly aspire – gender equality, transformative governance, peace and progress for Mindanao.

barry-hands-on-chestFew lawyers are able to shatter the public's perception that their profession is one that is characterized by connivance, deception and moral ambiguity. Ibarra “Barry” Gutierrez is one of them. Perhaps even fewer share his commitment to bring the law to those who need it the most. Whether in front of a judge or in front of his class, Barry stays true to his credo of standing up for the underdog.

His students at the University of the Philippines College of Law have anecdotes of hearing his booming voice from one end of the hallway to the other end, as much his trademark as his clear – even stubborn – bias for an interpretation of the law that favors the poor and promotes the full expression of their rights.

As Director of the Institute of Human Rights, one of the leading academic and research institutions in the Philippines, Barry has emphasized the need to make human rights education not only the purview of lawyers and academics, but also those whose rights are often rendered vulnerable by poverty, joblessness, lack of decent housing and the like. True to his commitment to human rights, Barry is a staunch and vocal defender of women's rights – a passion he shares with his wife Maya Naya Tamayo, with whom he has two young children.

Barry could well have pursued a distinguished career in the academe or chose to become a hot-shot lawyer to the moneyed and famous. Instead, he opted to tread a path that would put him at loggerheads with inept and abusive public officials and exploitative corporations.

His academic credentials at the University of the Philippines, where he finished his undergraduate degree (cum laude) and his law degree, and at the New York University, where he completed his Masters of Laws, Major in Economic and Social Rights and International Law, are sterling. But he saw that there was much to be done, and too few people willing to do it. Rolling up his sleeves, Barry took on pro-bono legal cases representing cash-strapped non-government organizations questioning anti-people government policies, urban poor and peasant groups facing tenurial insecurity, as well as individuals asserting their civil and political rights before the Courts.

Barry is known for acting as counsel in high-profile and landmark cases like Randy David's petition to nullify Presidential Proclamation 1017 and Etta Rosales's case against the midnight appointment of the Chief Justice, but go to this urban poor community in Santolan, Pasig, under constant threat of demolition and they will tell you readily what they know him best for: for being the lawyer who stood up in their behalf when no one else would.