A HUMAN rights lawyer and founding member of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) was shot dead by unknown assailants in Negros Occidental on Tuesday night, according to reports.
Benjamin Ramos, secretary general of the NUPL-Negros Occidental Chapter, was attacked by men on board a motorcycle in front of a store in Barangay 5, Kabankalan City at about 10:30 p.m.
The NUPL said in a statement that Ramos, 56, sustained three gunshot wounds on the upper left side of his chest and on the right side of his back. He was rushed to a nearby hospital but was declared dead on arrival.
The lawyers’ group said that had just finished working on a legal paper for one of his pro bono clients when the shooting incident transpired.
A separate report said Ramos had just filed a motion for his clients identified as the “Mabinay 6” – six activists who were arrested in March.
“Despite limitations, he was for the longest time the “go-to” pro-bono lawyer of peasants, environmentalists, activists, political prisoners and mass organizations in Negros,” the group said. His fellow lawyers at NUPL described him as a “passionate, dedicated and articulate yet amiable and jolly” person.
The NUPL denounced the killing, saying that before the incident, Ramos was “maliciously and irresponsibly” red-tagged by the Philippine police, along with other personalities in a poster disseminated to the public. According to the group, Ramos was also part of the Quick Reaction Team that assisted victims of the peasant killings in Sagay, Negros Occidental on October 20.
The NUPL added that more lawyers from their ranks “have received threats for handling cases of political prisoners, suspected rebels, environmentalists, and suspected poor drug users.”
The group said that Ramos was the 34th lawyer killed under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. In the Visayas, he was the eighth legal counsel to be killed.
“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. LIEZELLE ROY