The Philippine Army yesterday brushed aside accusations of the New People’s Army and militant organizations that they were behind the death of human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, stressing that they had nothing to gain from it.
Col. Benedict Arevalo, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday said that Ramos was not a threat to them, and not a single case filed against them had prospered.
“Don’t look at us. He was not a threat to us,” Arevalo stressed.
The Leonardo Panaligan Command of the New People’s Army in Negros, human rights group Karapatan, and its allied organizations pointed to the alleged “death squad” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as behind the killing of Ramos, secretary-general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers-Negros Occidental, on Tuesday.
Chief Supt. John Bulalacao, regional police director of Western Visayas, yesterday said, “as of this time, we already have persons of interest being considered”.
While he did not elaborate further, Bulalacao said that one of the angles they are exploring is his professional practice as a lawyer.
Based on information they have gathered, Bulalacao said that Ramos provided legal assistance and counsel to farmers involved in forced land occupation as well as land-grabbing, allegedly receiving share.
This infuriated the landlords and legitimate beneficiaries, he added.
Another angle that is being investigated is his involvement in gambling as he was deeply engaged in such vice, Bulalacao added, in a statement issued by the Police Regional Office 6.
While he regrets that he cannot divulge material information in the meantime, to avoid jeopardizing the ongoing investigation, Bulalacao assured that the PNP is diligently doing its mandate to ensure that the perpetrators will be arrested in the soonest possible time.
Senior Supt. Rodolfo Castil, provincial police director of Negros Occidental, yesterday said that the killing of Ramos has no connection to the Sagay 9 incident, as of this time, although such angle is being considered.
Ramos was reportedly among the members of a fact-finding team, composed of militant organizations, who investigated the Sagay 9 incident.
Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr., who also expressed his sympathy to the Ramos family, said that a culture of violence appears to be prevailing not only in Negros and in other areas of the country, but in the whole world.
Arevalo also said that Ramos was involved in the finances of their organization, particularly in their international solidarity work and financial collection, from their members.
With his position in the organization, huge amount of funds were at his disposal, he said, adding also the need to look into internal squabbles as other members are interested in his position, as well as in the cases he handled, including those on drugs, and land grabbing issues.
Arevalo also said the possible involvement of the New People’s Army should be looked into, as they were also behind the death of nine civilians in Sagay City last month, who made them sacrificial lambs, to attain their objective of blaming it on the authorities.
Ka JB Regalado of the LPC slammed the Philippine Army for linking the revolutionary movement to the death of Ramos, dismissing it as an irresponsible and malicious statement.
Ramos also served as a counsel of six suspected New People’s Army rebels captured in an encounter last March in Mabinay, Negros Oriental, that also led to the confiscation of six high powered firearms and explosives.
Arevalo called the NPA and its allied organizations “liars”, and challenged the Army detractors to face him personally and tell him that they were behind it, and not through the media.
Regalado also said the creation of a Special Investigation Task Group on incidents of massacre and strafing, among others, was useless, as they remain unsolved as of this time, and not a single perpetrator had been arrested.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, a Negrense, also condemned the cold-blooded murder of Ramos, noting that the slain lawyer championed the cause of the poor and the marginalized in Negros Occidental.
It was an attack on human rights and shows the policy of killings under the Duterte administration, Alejano added.*
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