Illegal gambling eyed in slay of human rights lawyer
Rhodina Villanueva, Gilbert Bayoran, Christina Mendez, Emmanuel Tupas (The Philippine Star) - November 9, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Police are looking at illegal gambling as among the possible motives for the killing of human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental on Tuesday night.

“An angle that is being investigated is his involvement in gambling as he is reportedly deeply engaged in the vice,” Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao, Western Visayas police director, said yesterday.

Bulalacao said probers are also looking at the cases that Ramos handled, noting that the victim had assisted farmers accused of land grabbing.

“We already have persons of interest,” he said without elaborating.

Meanwhile, the military dismissed allegations that they were behind the killing of Ramos.

“Don’t look at us. He was not a threat to us,” Col. Benedict Arevalo, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday said.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo also dismissed insinuations that the government had a hand in the incident.

Panelo said President Duterte expressed his condolences to the family of the victim and gave assurance that no stone would be left unturned in the investigation.

 “Putting the blame of the slaying on the government... not only is reckless; it is  irresponsible and baseless as well. It will not reduce the sorrow of the bereaved family nor will it bring closer to the attainment of justice,” he said.

The Leo Panaligan Command of the New People’s Army, human rights group Karapatan and other militant organizations said the “death squad” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines perpetrated the murder of Ramos.

Ramos was secretary general of National Union of People’s Lawyers in Negros Occidental and a counsel of the families of nine farm workers killed in Sagay last month.

International human rights advocates said the murder of Ramos showed the ”persistence of injustice... where landlessness has bred decades-old agrarian conflict.”

Carlos Conde of the Human Rights Watch Asia division said the incident was “sadly not surprising in a country where impunity for extrajudicial killings and other serious rights violations prevails.”  

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