The Centre d’appui aux Philippines / Centre for Philippine Concerns (CAP/CPC) denounces the slaying of Atty. Benjamin Ramos, the Secretary General of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) chapter in Negros, Philippines, who was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen on November 6, 2018. Atty Ramos, 56, had recently been representing the families and survivors of the massacre of nine farmworkers, members of the National Federation of Sugarcane Workers (NFSW) who were shot while they were preparing to cultivate land in Hacienda Nene in Sagay City, Negros Occidental last October 20.
Known to many, Atty. Ramos was also a champion of numerous human rights cases of political prisoners, and that of the enforced disappearances and killings of peasants and activists.
Prior to the shooting incident, Atty Ramos was a victim of red-tagging, with public posters identifying him as a member of the New People’s Army. “These beastly attacks by treacherous cowards cannot go on. Not a few of our members have been attacked and killed before while literally practicing their profession and advocacies in the courts, in rallies, in picket lines, in urban poor communities, and in fact-finding missions,” the NUPL said in a statement.
“Ben is the 34th lawyer killed under the two-year administration of President [Rodrigo] Duterte.” NUPL said.
Atty. Ramos was also the lawyer for six young activists accused and arrested of being New People’s Army fighters last year in Mabinay town in neighboring Negros Oriental. The father of three was also a peasant advocate and had founded the farmers’ organization Paghiliusa Development Group.
Targeting human rights lawyers by killing and listing them as enemies of the state makes it evident that the Duterte administration is going on an all-out war against human rights defenders who dare to fight against rights violations and the prevalent culture of impunity in the Philippines.
We stand in solidarity with his friends and colleagues, and the communities he served. His fellow lawyers at the NUPL describe him as a “passionate, dedicated and articulate yet amiable and jolly” person who was, for the longest time, “the run-to pro-bono lawyer of peasants, environmentalists, activists, political prisoners and mass organizations in Negros.”
As a solidarity organization for the Philippines advocating various battles at the national and international levels, we call on the other Human Rights groups in Canada and in other parts of the world to join in the clamor for justice for Atty. Ramos and other human rights defenders in the Philippines who have been killed by police or military authorities while doing their service to the people.
The CAP/CPC joins with the other Canadian members of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP-Canada) in calling on the Duterte government to:
· Order an immediate and independent investigation in to the assassination of Atty. Ben Ramos and prosecute the perpetrator of this heinous crime;
· Prosecute the military and police perpetrators of human rights crimes;
· Stop the counter insurgency program and the campaign of terror and impunity that have resulted in the killings of farmers, indigenous leaders, anti-mining activists, human rights defenders and other social activists;
· Implement genuine land reform and eliminate one of the fundamental bases of social conflict in the Philippines;
· Restart the Peace Process with the National Democratic Front.
We call on the Canadian Government to end support for the Duterte regime and:
· Issue a public statement condemning the assassination of Atty. Ben Ramos and calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to take immediate action to end the killings and Human Rights violations against Human Rights Defenders;
· Stop all military and police cooperation and assistance;
· Stop ongoing support for the Philippine government’s counter-insurgency program including socio-economic programming;
· Stop all arms sales to the Duterte regime.