Condemnation and Outrage at the Murder of People’s Lawyer Ben Ramos in the Philippines

ELDH Statement

Condemnation and Outrage at the Murder of People’s Lawyer Ben Ramos in the Philippines

The European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (ELDH) expresses its Strong Condemnation and Collective Outrage at the Murder of People’s Lawyer Ben Ramos.

Benjamin Tarug Ramos, 56, Secretary General of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) Negros Occidental Province Chapter was killed on November 6th, shot dead in Kabankalan, Philippines, by motorcycle-riding men while taking a break after he had just finished a legal paper for one of his many pro bono clients. Ben is the 34th lawyer killed under the Duterte administration.

Ben Ramos was counsel for the Mabinay 6, six youth activists who were arrested in April 2018 on trumped up charges of illegal possession of firearms and accused of being members of the New Peoples Army, and the Sagay 9, nine unionized sugarcane farmworkers who were brutally massacred on October 20 for occupying land that was rightfully theirs.

The NUPL, in a statement issued on Wednesday said, “The passionate, dedicated and articulate yet amiable and jolly Ben, was a founding member of NUPL. 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 Duterte regime is infamous for its “war on drugs” which has led to the murder of over 20,000 of poor people since 2016. It has also used murder to silence dissent. Ben Ramos is one of about 150 lawyers and activists killed for being vocal critics of the Duterte regime. The regime, its forces, and the armed vigilante groups that they have emboldened have perpetuated a culture of impunity by labelling their victims of extrajudicial and indiscriminate killings as terrorists and criminals to justify their deaths. In fact, Ben Ramos’ name was included on a police list labelling him as a member of the armed resistance movement.

Any military cooperation as announced by the US government, or arms sales as announced by the Israeli government, is complicity to a murderous regime.

The Duterte regime has also abused the legal process to arrest and detain human rights defenders. Another NUPL lawyer, Kathy Panguban, faces charges of kidnapping and illegal detention for representing a 14-year old witness of the Sagay 9 massacre. Ironically, in October the Philippines was granted a three-year term on the United Nations Human Rights Council to which the government has minimized the severity of its bloodthirsty policies.

We are outraged by the killing of Ben Ramos, a champion of people’s rights! We are outraged at the death toll under this regime and the lack of accountability from those responsible for state-sanctioned murder. We fear the threat of similar tactics being used by other authoritarian regimes as we contend with the rise of state fascism globally.

On 24 January 2015, the DAY OF THE ENDANGERED LAWYER, ELDH together with many other lawyers organisations in and outside Europe has organised demonstrations outside Philippine Embassies in solidarity with Philippine lawyers and human rights defenders. The murder of lawyer Ben Ramos shows us once more the urgent need of solidarity with the Philippine lawyers.

As allies of the Filipino people, we commit to defending the defenders of human rights. We will continue to expose the violence of this regime by joining the broad international struggle to demand justice for victims. We demand that the United States government and the Israeli government end military aid to the Duterte regime! We call on the international community to denounce the Duterte regime’s brutal campaign of extrajudicial killings and to oppose funnelling U.S. tax dollars to human rights violations in the Philippines!