Members of the Paghidaet sa Kauswagan Development Group Inc. believe that the killing of human rights lawyer Benjamin Tarug Ramos Jr. Tuesday in Kabankalan City was perpetrated by state authorities.
Felipe Gelle, a member of PDG, said at a press conference yesterday that they believe that the motive for Ramos’ death was extra-judicial killing against human rights advocates and progressive organizations.
He said President Duterte has launched an all-out war against suspected Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army supporters. They are looking at the possible involvement of the death squad, allegedly created by the Armed Forces of the Philippine in Negros, in the death of Ramos, he added.
Gelle said they also believe that the motive for his killing is related to the cases he was handling as a human rights lawyer, particularly in the southern part of Negros. He said Ramos’ wife, Clarissa, also serves as staff of the PDG.
Karapatan-Negros secretary general Clarizza Singson-Dagatan said they believe that Ramos’ death was intentional since he had been receiving death threats since 2006 after being tagged, or accused, as a lawyer of the NPA.
Dagatan said that, aside from receiving death threats through text messages, Ramos was being tailed by motorcycle men a week before his assassination.
She said Ramos had filed an urgent motion in one of the cases he handled to seek medical assistance for peasant leader Mary Grace Delicano-Sumayang, 27, who was arrested in Victorias City, Negros Occidental for the crime of arson.
Dagatan said Ramos had met other lawyer-members of the NUPL-Negros on Oct. 26 in an initial meeting on the Sagay massacre incident.
She said their group is conducting an independent investigation on the case and visited the crime scene to gather data on the incident. They are also coordinating with the police on whatever information they could gather from footages of the CCTV camera in the area.
Darryl Albañez, secretary general of the September 21 Movement, said Ramos is a great loss to them, being their legal counsel and because he also caters to different agrarian groups in the province. They are also calling for a fair investigation of the case.
Social Action Center director, Fr. Cris Gonzales, said Ramos was a defender of the poor and progressive groups and they are asking that he be given justice.
Members of Karapatan-Negros and Bayan-Negros held an indignation rally at the Fountain of Justice in Bacolod yesterday to condemn the killing of Ramos.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Negros Occidental Chapter, led by its president, Arnel Lapore, also issued a statement strongly denouncing the killing of Ramos.
“This atrocity against a civilian lawyer, practically defenseless and unsuspecting, is apparently intended to demoralize and undermine lawyers in practicing their profession and in pursuing their advocacies. As we previously stated in our statement condemning the killing of another brethren just a few months ago, any attack against a lawyer threatens the independence of lawyers and judges, hindering their pursuit towards an effective administration of justice and is a threat against civil liberties if tolerated,” it said.
The lawyers are demanding a full scale investigation on the case, as well as the unresolved killing of lawyer Rafael Atotubo a few months ago in Bacolod City. They also called on their colleagues to remain steadfast, unwavering, and united in their commitment towards justice and truth.
Members of the NUPL said, in a statement that, despite limitations, Ramos was, for the longest time, the “go-to” pro-bono lawyer of peasants, environmentalists, activists, political prisoners, and mass organizations in Negros.
Ramos was a founding member and executive director of the group and founding secretary of the September 21 Movement Southern Negros, a human rights alliance and local chapter of Karapatan.
The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment also strongly condemned the killing of Ramos, who was also among the leaders of Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura, an organization that works for pro-people and pro-environment agricultural policies and technologies in the country.
In a statement, the group said Ramos’ organization, PDG, was also involved in the anti-mining campaign to prevent Colet Mines from operating and causing destruction to the hinterland forests of Sipalay in Negros Occidental.*
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