By Ben Rosario
Statements of condemnation over the killing of human rights lawyer Benjamin T. Ramos continued to pour on Thursday as lawmakers demanded immediate capture of the perpetrators.
In separate statements, Reps. Emmi De Jesus (Gabriela); Ariel Casilao (Anakpawis Partylist) and Gary Alejano (Magdalo Partylist) called for an extensive investigation into the killing of Ramos in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.
Ramos, a member of the National Union of People’s Lawyers and a human rights defender, was representing relatives of the victims and survivors of the Sagay 9 massacre when he was killed.
“Atty. Ben is one of the volunteer lawyers helping the survivors of the Sagay 9 Massacre and has consistently been a target of red-tagging and harassment by paramilitary and state forces due to his probono works helping peasant, farmers, and other marginalized sectors in Negros Occidental,” said Gabriela Partylist in a statement.
De Jesus noted that Ramos is the 34th lawyer slain in the less than three years that President Rodrigo Duterte became president.
“His death is not just a loss to the marginalized sector, especially to peasants and farmers, but another fatal blow to the human rights and judicial community in the country,” she said.
The Gabriela statement added: “This merciless murder of innocent civilians, human rights lawyers and workers, and peasant leaders in Negros Occidental shows strong culture of impunity in the province nurtured by the ruling politician-landlords.”
Casilao recalled that Ramos had also served the Duterte administration as the assistant secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform during the tenure of former Secretary Rafael Mariano.
“The only beneficiaries of Atty. Ben’s death are the real killers of Sagay 9, those who illegally arrested the Mabinay 6, these are the paid armed goons and state forces who obviously beholden to influential clans in the province of big despotic landlord; whom for decades deny the lands and oppressed poor farmer and farm workers. The oppressed people of Negros lost another champion of human rights” he said.
Casilao blamed the spate of violence in Negros Occidental as the result of landlordism that has been getting strong backing from national and local political leaders.
He said the Duterte government should also share blame “for the rising level of impunity which putting in its crosshair progressive lawyers and rights worker”.
“Atty. Ramos, last April was included in malicious posters. He clearly became a target of red-baiting because of his work as defense lawyer of mass activists in Negros Occidental,” noted Casilao.
In a separate statement, Alejano decried Ramos’ murder as a “personal affront” to him.
“He was a lawyer who championed the causes of the poor and the marginalized in Negros Occidental,” he said.
Alejano, who ran but lost in the 2010 mayoral race in Sipalay, said Ramos also hails from this Negros Occidental City.
“Atty. Ramos’ demise is a tragic loss not only to his family but also to the people to whom he has devoted his life’s work,” the partylist solon stated.
He added: “His fight against human rights violators has made him a target by murderers roused by violent rhetoric against human rights defenders.”