Environmental defender

ATTY. Benjamin Ramos of Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental was not only a human rights lawyer. He was also an environmentalist.

He was a member of Paghidaet sa Kauswagan (PDG), a group advocating for sustainable and environment-friendly agriculture in Negros Occidental province. He was also among the leaders of Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), an organization which works for pro-people and pro-environment agricultural policies and technologies in the country.

Atty. Ben was a staunch environmental defender. He was an effective leader in opposing the commercialization of Monsanto’s Bt corn which farmers have complained of negatively affecting their farm productivity and further tying their dependency to toxic agricultural inputs. With his colleagues in MASIPAG and the environmentalist community, he also pushed for the creation of biosafety standards and regulations in the Philippines which has hitherto not existed.

Atty. Ben and his organization PDG was also involved in the anti-mining campaign to prevent Colet Mines to operate and cause destruction in the hinterland forests of Sipalay City in Negros Occidental. He also supported the interests and rights of land defenders of Negros, as part and parcel of his advocacy of sustainable agriculture. Before his assassination on Nov. 6, 2018 he was one of the lawyers of the families of the peasants slain in the infamous Sagay massacre which remains unresolved.

It is with great sadness that we have lost another people’s lawyer and another environmental defender.  Atty. Ben’s killing occurred at the eve of botanist and environmental defender Leonard Co’s eighth death anniversary. Injustice continues as eight years have passed and not a single perpetrator behind Leonard’s death has been brought behind bars. The government appears inutile in its obligations to bring justice to the slain environmental defender. The Department of Justice even downgraded the charges against the soldiers that shot the botanist from murder to homicide, a lesser charge.

We are seething with anger on the ongoing impunity and injustice facing environmental defenders. The perpetrators and masterminds behind Atty. Ben’s death must be tracked and held to account for their crime. We must resist this system that perpetuates hostility to environmental defenders and continues to allow environmental destruction.


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