By Hannah Torregoza
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Thursday denounced the killing of human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos who was shot dead by motorcycle-riding men late Tuesday.
“I condemn in the strongest term the killing of Atty. Ramos. He is a great loss to the legal profession and the Filipino people, especially the oppressed whose rights he had bravely fought for all his life,” Drilon said in a statement.
“It is very alarming and deplorable. Atty. Ramos’ gruesome death and the previous attacks against other lawyers are inevitably sending a frightening signal to the legal profession,” Drilon said.
The Senate minority chief noted Ramos, a founding member of the National Union of People’s Lawyer (NUPL), courageously took up the case of nine sugar workers who were killed in Sagay City, Negros Occidental province.
Ramos had just bought cigarettes and was standing in front a store in his hometown of Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, around 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday when one of two men on a motorcycle shot him three times.
According to the NUPL, the slain lawyer had a reputation of being a “go-to” pro bono lawyer for farmers, environmentalists, activists, political prisoners and mass organizations in the province.
As this developed, the Senate minority bloc called for an immediate Senate probe into the so-called Sagay 9 massacre, not only to bring to justice the real masterminds but also to address the pitiful plight of ordinary farmers.
The nine victims—which includes three women and two minors—were farmers at Hacienda Nene who were engaged in the traditional “bungkalan” or planting vegetables and root crops to feed their families on idle sugar land when they were shot dead by still unidentified gunmen.
Drilon pointed out the incident is extremely “worrisome.”
“Who is safe now? If these killings do not stop and the perpetrators are not immediately brought to court, it will be detrimental to the rule of law,” Drilon stressed.
Drilon urged law enforcement authorities and the Department of Justice (DOJ) exhaust all means to bring the perpetrators to justice in the swiftest possible time.
“It is imperative that a thorough investigation is launched in order to determine the motive behind the killing and identify those responsible for the killing,” he said.
“We must not let the culture of impunity to continue to prevail over the rule of law and our justice system,” added the senator.
“We can only do that if these killings are resolved and prevented. The police must have realized this now,” Drilon said.