Unspeakable act of cowardice

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(We yield this space to the statement of the human rights alliance Karapatan on the assassination of Negros human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos due to its timeliness. – Ed.)

KARAPATAN strongly denounces the killing of Atty. Benjamin Ramos, a people’s lawyer who unflinchingly stood alongside the poor and the oppressed in Negros and a feisty human rights defender who dedicated his life to selfless service for the downtrodden. While we grieve with the family of Atty. Ben, his friends and colleagues, and the communities he served, we are enraged with this dastardly and unspeakable act of cowards who hide behind the cloak of anonymity through their usual modus operandi, the riding-in-tandem groups.

Atty. Ben, 56, was shot at 10:50 p.m. of Nov. 6, 2018 in front of a store in Barangay 5, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental by motorcycle-riding gunmen. His body sustained at least three gunshot wounds; he was brought to the Holy Mercy Hospital in Kabankalan City, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Our colleagues in Karapatan Negros chapter had worked closely with Atty. Ben, who was the secretary general of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers chapter in Negros, in numerous human rights cases including the massacre of the nine farmworkers in Sagay City, in cases of political prisoners, and that of the enforced disappearances and killings of peasants and activists. He was also the executive director of Paghidaet sa Kauswagan Development Group, a nongovernmental institution assisting Negros peasants.

We dare accuse State security forces, the military and police including their auxiliary forces who prop up greedy landlords, for the killing of Atty. Ben Ramos. When the Philippine National Police in Negros placed Atty. Ben’s name and picture in what can only be described as a poster-hit list in April 2018, they have made him and other mass leaders and human rights workers open targets for precisely this kind of attack. We can almost certainly expect that the PNP, full of unsurpassed hypocrisy with its announcement of a so-called investigation, will lay the blame for Atty. Ben’s death elsewhere and absolve themselves and their cohorts.

The killing of Atty. Ben occurred at a time when authorities have been twisting the narrative on the massacre of the nine farmworkers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental and when Atty. Katherine Panguban of NUPL and Karapatan are being charged with false accusations of kidnapping and serious illegal detention of a 14-year- old witness to the said massacre. All these are being done in an attempt to silence dissent and to muffle the truth. All these are being done to foster the climate of impunity in the Philippines.

As we grieve for Atty. Ben Ramos and all victims of State-sponsored violence, we say this to the perpetrators: We will hound you with our resolute commitment to bring justice for all victims like Atty. Ben. We will never be silenced. We will never be cowed. We will never waver in our struggle for people’s rights and for genuine freedom and democracy.

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