A human rights lawyer serving as a counsel of six alleged New People’s Army rebels captured in an encounter with Army soldiers in previous months in Negros Oriental, was shot and killed Tuesday night by two motorcycle-riding suspects at Roxas Street in Brgy. 5, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.
The victim, identified as Benjamin Ramos, 56, succumbed to three gunshot wounds in the back and left upper chest, Supt. Jonel Guadalope, officer-in-charge of the Kabankalan City Police Station said. He was declared dead on arrival at the Holy Mother of Mercy Hospital in Kabankalan City, the police said.
Initial police investigations showed that Ramos was on his way home, after buying cigarette from a sari-sari store in the place, when he was shot by a gunman, who was wearing a jacket with hood with his face partially covered. The suspect, who was armed with a .45 caliber pistol, fled on the motorcycle, with the driver wearing a helmet, the police said.
Based on their initial investigations, Guadalope said Ramos had received threats on his life, before the shooting incident.
Ramos, secretary-general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), also served as a counsel of the September 21 Movement as well that of six NPA members captured in March in an encounter with Army soldiers in Mabinay, Negros Oriental.
Three slugs and a live ammunition of a .45 caliber pistol were recovered from the scene of incident by responding policemen of Kabankalan.
Guadalope said he already formed a Special Investigation Task Group to probe the incident and the motive for it.
Ramos was the second lawyer gunned down in Negros Occidental, after Rafael Atotubo, who handled drug-related cases, on Aug. 23 in Bacolod City.
Atotubo was also shot dead by two motorcycle-riding suspects, whose assailants have yet to be identified by authorities.
Guadalope said they are looking at job-related motives among the causes for the killing of Ramos.
The Police Regional Office 6 condemned yesterday the shooting to death of Ramos.
Chief Supt. John Bulalacao, regional police director of Western Visayas, said he already ordered the immediate conduct of an investigation to resolve the crime.
“We assure the family of the victim of a thorough investigation to ensure the immediate arrest of the perpetrators so that justice will be served to him and his family,” Bulalacao said.
The NUPL also issued a statement condemning the premeditated and cold-blooded murder of Ramos, a founding member.
The NUPL said Ramos had earlier been maliciously and irresponsibly tagged in a public poster by the Philippine police as among the so-called personalities of the underground armed movement. It added that he is the 34th lawyer killed under the 2-year administration of President Duterte. Excluding judges and prosecutors, he is the 24th member of the profession killed and the 8th in the Visayas.
Another NUPL member, Katherine Panguban, is also facing kidnapping charges before the Sagay City Prosecutor’s Office, after she was accused of taking a witness in the killing of nine civilians in Sagay City, Negros Occidental.
It also said that many NUPL members have received threats for handling cases of political prisoners, suspected rebels, environmentalists, and poor suspected drug users. But it said they will “not be cowed, will not blink, will not retreat, will not look the other way”, and will stand their ground, stressing also that they will continue to defend the defenseless.
The New People’s Army Leonardo Panaligan Command also condemned the murder of Ramos, a human rights advocate and defender who was respected and loved by farmers.
Before his death, rebel spokesman Ka JB Regalado claimed that Ramos was being placed under surveillance by unidentified individuals, and was being linked by government authorities to the CPP-NPA.
He added that the AFP and PNP have machineries to shoot and kill Ramos.
NO REASON FOR FEAR, PANIC
In response to the numerous killings in Negros Occidental, Vice-Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson yesterday said there is no reason for fear and panic.
Lacson brushed aside insinuations that the killing of Ramos will cause “panic and fear.”
“Definitely not,” he stressed.
The vice-governor said he is leaving it to the authorities to “do their jobs to maintain peace and order in the province.”
“They are very clear as to who they are after,” Lacson added.
Despite the series of killings of both civilians and uniformed personnel in Negros island, Lacson maintains, “Nobody can say there is a breakdown in peace and order in the province.*
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