Bayan Muna Representative Neri Javier Colmenares is a long-time human rights lawyer, constitutionalist and expert on international humanitarian law. He was among the youngest political detainees during martial law. Prior to joining the legal profesion, he was a student activist.
He finished his Bachelor of Arts in Economics at San Beda College and completed his law degree with the University of the Philippines. He is completing his in Law with Melbourne University on the International Criminal Court and the Legal System Impediments to Prosecution of Human Rights Violators and the Writ of Amparo.
Rep. Colmenares acted as counsel or argued before the Supreme Court in oral arguments against the 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 (the VFA Case) and Proclamation 1017 (the Emergency Rule case).
He was also counsel to Supreme Court petitions on legal issues involving the anti-terrorism law, urban militarization, the national identification system, the Writ of Amparo and the Bilateral Immunity Agreement in relation to the International Criminal Court. He also argued before the Supreme Court in the Bayan Muna petition to declare all major political parties disqualified from participating in the party-list elections. He also challenged the First Party Rule which the SC recently struck down resulting in the entry of new party-list representatives in Congress.
Bayan Muna’s third representative is considered one of the Philippine Country Experts on Universal Jurisdiction by the Amnesty International.
His commitment to human rights is reflected in his advocacies as secretary-general of the National Union of Peoples’ lawyers (NUPL), a nationwide association of human rights lawyers in the Philippines, committed to the defense, protection, and promotion of human rights, especially of the poor and the oppressed. He was also the main organizer of the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL).
A native of Negros Occidental, Neri began his activism at 15 as a youth organizer against martial law in 1976. During the ‘80s, he became an officer of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), Studen Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) and the Visayas Regional Chair of the Student Catholic Action (SCAUP).
He was arrested twice for his student activism by virtue of an Arrest, Search and Seizure Order (ASSO) issued by then Pres. Ferdinand Marcos. Neri languished in prison for a total of four years during martial law. He was heavily tortured during his imprisonment and, as one of the 10,000 human rights violations victims in the Marcos Human Rights case, he appeared before the Hawaii District Court in 1998 to contest the unjust US$ 150 Million settlement agreement with the Marcoses.
Neri has been Bayan Muna’s general counsel since the party’s inception. He was elected the party’s third nominee in 2007 elections, but assumed his post only after the SC granted the petition of Bayan Muna to declare the First Party Rule unconstitutional.