The Europe Network for Justice and Peace in the Philippines and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) condemn in the strongest possible terms the ruthless killing of Atty. Benjamin Tarug Ramos, Jr. on November 6 in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental. He was gunned down in a cowardly attack by motorcyclists riding in tandem after completing some legal work on behalf of one of his pro-bono clients.
As a people’s lawyer, Ben dedicated his life to the fight for justice, defending the rights of the poor and landless peasants in Negros, taking up cases of political prisoners, enforced disappearances and killings of activists and putting his profound legal knowledge at the disposal of all who needed his help.
At the time of his murder, he had been providing legal assistance to the survivors of the Sagay massacre in which nine sugarcane workers were brutally killed in their sleep in Sagay, Negros, on 20 October 2018. The workers had occupied idle lands and lands covered by agrarian reform but not yet distributed in order to grow crops to feed their families in the period between planting and harvesting sugar cane, a time when families suffer massive hunger.
For many years Ben had been well aware that he was a target for liquidation by the Philippine authorities. In fact, he had already survived a previous attack on his life in 2007. In April of this year the Philippine National Police in Negros placed his name and picture on a poster together with 60 other human rights defenders, branding them as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines. This is tantamount to labeling them as “terrorists” and therefore a free target for killing under the present Duterte Administration.
Despite these perpetual threats to his life and well being, Ben chose to continue to serve the poor and the fight for justice.
His death comes at a moment when extrajudicial killings are dramatically increasing in the Philippines and the culture of impunity is ever worsening. Following the Sagay massacre earlier in the month, just last week on 31 October a banana plantation worker at Sumifru Philippines Corporation and an active member of Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMASUFA), an affiliate of labor union Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), was shot dead at the Compostela public market in Compostela Valley.
As we struggle to come to terms with the immensity of this loss and grieve with Ben´s family and loved ones, our grief is transforming into outrage and a strong determination to do everything in our power to ensure that those responsible for his killing and the slaughter of many others and are finally brought to justice.
Our tribute to Ben will be to continue to support what he believed in: a Philippines where justice, fairness and genuine peace prevail, where the rich and powerful no longer live at the expense of the weakest members of society. Ben’s vision, strength and courage will always be an example to us as we continue that fight.
We stand with Ben’s family, with Paghida-et sa Kauswagan Development Group, Inc. (PDG), the organization that he founded and led up to the time of his death and all those who have given their lives in the pursuit of justice and human rights in the Philippines.
We call on the international community to condemn this barbaric act and the continuing reign of impunity under the Duterte administration, even as we vow to strengthen our solidarity and support for the defenders of the poor and exploited in the Philippines.
Julie Smit, Convenor, Europe Network for Justice and Peace in the Philippines
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Angie Gonzales, Global Coordinator, International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP)
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Peter Murphy, Chairperson, Global Council of the ICHRP
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