Human rights lawyer gunned down in Negros Occidental

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Human rights lawyer gunned down in Negros Occidental
The NUPL noted that Ben Ramos “was for the longest time the ‘go-to’ pro-bono lawyer of peasants, environmentalists, activists, political prisoners and mass organizations in Negros.”
National Union of Peoples' Lawyers / Facebook

MANILA, Philippines — A human rights lawyer in Negros Occidental was gunned down by unidentified men on Tuesday night.

The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers said that Benjamin Tarug Ramos, secretary general of the group’s Negros Occidental Chapter, was shot dead by men aboard a motorcycle in Kabankalan on the night of November 6. 

The 56-year-old lawyer was just taking a break from working on documents for his pro bono clients when he was killed.

“He sustained three gunshot wounds at the right back side and left upper chest of his body and was declared dead on arrival at the hospital,” said the NUPL.

Ramos’ work

Ramos is one of the founding fathers of the NUPL, a group of human rights lawyers that provides free legal assistance to the victims of human rights violations.

The NUPL noted that Ramos “was for the longest time the ‘go-to’ pro-bono lawyer of peasants, environmentalists, activists, political prisoners and mass organizations in Negros.”

The slain lawyer recently provided free legal assistance to the family of the victims in the killing of nine sugarcane workers in Sagay, as part of the Quick Reaction Team.

He was also earlier tagged in a public poster as one of the “so-called personalities of the underground armed movement,” said NUPL.

“These beastly attacks by treacherous cowards cannot go on. Not a few of our members have been attacked and killed before while literally practicing their profession and advocacies in the courts, in rallies, in picket lines, in urban poor communities, and in fact-finding mission,” the NUPL said.

They also noted that their fellow NUPL lawyer Katherine Panguban was tagged by the police in the Sagay massacre. She is facing kidnapping and serious illegal detention complaints about her assistance to the survivor and witness in the massacre.

The NUPL slammed raps against Panguban as baseless and fabricated.

NUPL: ‘Who will defend the defenders?’

The NUPL lamented the loss of their fellow human rights defender that brought “distress” to them, but they vowed that they would continue their work.

“But who will defend the defenders? Our clients will. The people and their various organizations will,” the NUPL said.

"And we, the lawyers of the people will not be cowed, will not blink, will not retreat, we will not look the other way, and we will stand our ground. Yet we will close ranks," they added.

They noted that Ramos is the 34th lawyer killed since the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. Prosecutors and judges were also not spared in the killings under the Duterte administration that vowed a ruthless end to the illegal drugs.

Last June, Camarines Sur Judge Ricky Begino was shot in front of his house on June 12.

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: November 7, 2018 - 9:19pm

The Commission on Human Rights has dispatched a quick response team to investigate the killing of National Union of Peoples' Lawyer officer Benjamin "Ben" Ramos in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental last night.

"We call on the government to act with urgency in pinning down the perpetrators of this violence and proceed with active measures that would protect the safety of human rights defenders who continue to serve this country’s most vulnerable and marginalized," CHR says.

In April, Ramos, who was secretary-general of NUPL in Negros Occidental province, was included in a poster, then disseminated in the town of Moises Padilla, tagging him and other personalities as communists.

The NUPL, which also condemned the killing, described the poster tagging Ramos as a communist rebel as malicious and irresponsible. — Janvic Mateo

November 7, 2018 - 9:19pm

Rights group Karapatan believes security forces, "including their auxiliary forces who prop up greedy landlords", are involved in the death of lawyer Benjamin Ramos in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental.

"When the Philippine National Police in Negros placed Attorney Ben’s name and picture in what can only be described as a poster-hitlist in April 2018, they have made them him and other mass leaders and human rights workers open targets for precisely this kind of attack," the group said.

November 7, 2018 - 6:08pm

The National Bureau of Investigation is already looking into the ambush on lawyer Benjamin Ramos, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra says in a message to reporters.

Hustisya (Victims United for Justice), an organization of victims of rights violations and their relatives, in a separate statement says it joins the people of Negros in mourning Ramos' death.

"Killing lawyers is not just a brazen violation of their rights as people and as defenders, it shows that no justice can be expected under a regime that kills advocates of peace and justice, the farmers who feed the country, and lawyers who defend victims of abuses in the name of justice," the group also says.

November 7, 2018 - 4:00pm

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines condemns the murder of lawyer Ben Ramos in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, the latest in a series of attacks on lawyers.

IBP president Abdiel Fajardo says lawyers "are now enveloped in fear as they seek to provide access to justice to their clients."

Fajardo adds "our pens and typewriters are helpless against guns and bullets that have tilted the scales of justice...in favor of impunity and lawlessness."

The national association of lawyers called on authorities to solve the case.

"Each unsolved and un-prosecuted murder of the officers of our courts of law is an attack against the rule of law."

November 7, 2018 - 9:30am

The Human Rights Watch expresses condemnation of the killing of human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos.

"Human Rights Watch denounces the killing last night of lawyer Ben Ramos... Ramos was a human-rights defender who took on pro bono cases representing some of the most marginalized sectors in the Philippines. His murder is a further indictment of the impunity that has worsened under the administration of President Duterte," Carlos Conde, researcher of HRW's Asia Division, says.

Ramos and his colleagues at the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers provided pro bono services to the families of the victims of the Sagay massacre.

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