Just who exactly is Barry Gutierrez and why was he thrust in the limelight all of a sudden? Is it because he served government? Is it because he’s running for public office as the second nominee of Akbayan? Or is it because on top of his accomplishments—Fulbright scholar, human rights lawyer, urban poor advocate—he’s charming and—according to his wife and kids—good-looking?
The answers could go any which way.
But one thing’s for sure.
There’s definitely more to Barry than what we’ve seen on television, heard on radio, and read on the newspapers and websites.
1) Barry ‘disturbed the peace’ and later got elected as university student council chair at the University of the Philippines.
When he was the Philippine Collegian’s editor-in-chief, he introduced a front page column entitled “Disturbing The Peace.” That column, combined with shifts in editorial direction, helped make the paper more attractive and readable to its primary audience—students of UP Diliman.
He was later fielded—and was elected—university student council chair, a year after he headed the Collegian. As a result, this distinction made him part of a small group of UP students who were both Collegian editors in chief and university student council chairpersons.
2) Barry took the road less traveled and ditched a financially-rewarding career in a law firm.
As a young lawyer for a Makati law firm, Barry was able to successfully defend a big-ticket client.
However, as he walked of the court, relishing his first legal victory, he encountered the defendants, a middle-aged couple running an informal retail business. Since they lost the case, they were now up in arms as to what to do next.
“We don’t have enough money for a lawyer to appeal our case,” the couple told Barry.
Barry was shocked by the revelation, forcing him to think why he took up law in the first place.
That same month, he quit the firm and joined a non-government organization (NGO) fighting for rights of the urban poor and later, the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC). As a government consultant, he was able to learn about the troubles of the urban poor whose rights—housing and otherwise—he continues to defend to this day.
3) Barry studied in New York but chose to come home to serve his country.
He won a joint scholarship grant from the Fulbright Foundation and the New York University Global Public Service Law Project, specializing in International Law and Economic and Social Rights. He didn’t get a haircut for a year as that would have cost him $50, opting instead to use the money to put food on the table for his young family. During his year-long stay in New York, not a few Filipinos tried their best to talk him into permanently residing in the US.
But Barry—educated in UP and NYU—chose to come home.
“Coming home was the easiest sacrifice I ever had to make,” Barry said.
4) Barry is a product of the Philippines’ public school system.
Save for his post-graduate degrees, it’s as if Barry never left Quezon City.
When he was in grade school, Barry studied at the University of the Philippines Integrated School in Diliman. He later went to the Philippine Science High School and, in college, was a graduate of the School of Economics and the UP College of Law, Diliman.
He took to teaching full-time at the UP College of Law and took over the helm of the UP Law Center’s Institute of Human Rights as its youngest director. In 2004, he was a Visiting Fellow of the Asian Law Institute at the National University of Singapore.
But just the same, after his stint at the Asian city-state, he came home.
After all, it was just his way of repaying the country for what he received in terms of education and opportunity.
“When asked why I chose to come home, I always remember the speaker during our high school graduation. He said that our quality education was made possible by the pains and struggles of the Filipino masses,” Barry said. “Whenever I strive to do something, I look back and think about that. And since then, that speech has always guided important decisions I have made in my life.”