'EN­GAGE IN VICE'

Lawyer’s death may due to gam­bling, ‘land grab­bing’ farm­ers’ case, grudge

Sun Star Bacolod - - Front Page - BY GLAZYL Y. MASCULINO

THE Po­lice Re­gional Of­fice (Pro)–west­ern Visayas are look­ing into the pos­si­bil­ity that the mur­der of the hu­man rights lawyer in Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal may be due to his in­volve­ment in gam­bling, the case of “land grab­bing” farm­ers and grudge.

Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent John Bu­lala­cao, di­rec­tor of Pro-west­ern Visayas, said yes­ter­day they al­ready have per­sons of in­ter­est be­hind the killing of lawyer Ben­jamin Ramos Jr., 56, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of Na­tional Union of Peo­ples’ Lawyers (NUPL) in Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal.

How­ever, he re­fused to elab­o­rate on the iden­ti­ties of the said per­son­al­i­ties as the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is still on­go­ing.

On Novem­ber 6, Ramos was shot at close range by mo­tor­cy­cle-rid­ing as­sailants in front of a store near the pub­lic plaza at

Barangay 5 in Ka­bankalan City. He suc­cumbed to three gun­shot wounds.

Bu­lala­cao said they have the­o­ries and pos­si­ble an­gles be­ing pur­sued and one of these was his pro­fes­sion as a lawyer.

“We have gath­ered in­for­ma­tion that Ramos also pro­vides le­gal as­sis­tance and coun­sel for farm­ers in­volved in forced land oc­cu­pa­tion and land grab­bing re­ceiv­ing al­leged share. This in­fu­ri­ated the land­lords and le­git­i­mate land ben­e­fi­cia­ries,” he said.

“Some may have iden­ti­fied to have per­sonal grudges against him,” Bu­lala­cao said.

An­other an­gle that is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated is the vic­tim’s in­volve­ment in gam­bling as he is “deeply en­gaged in such vice,” but such raw in­for­ma­tion is still sub­ject for val­i­da­tion, he said.

“We need to get tes­ti­monies and have phys­i­cal ev­i­dence to pro­vide more de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about his death,” the PRO-6 top cop said.

He said he can­not di­vulge ma­te­rial in­for­ma­tion as not to jeop­ar­dize the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“Rest as­sured that the po­lice is dili­gently do­ing its man­date to en­sure that the per­pe­tra­tors will be ar­rested in the soon­est pos­si­ble time,” he said.

Not true

Mean­while, the Unyon ng Mang­ga­gawa sa Agrikul­tura, in a me­dia in­ter­view, de­nied the state­ment of the po­lice, claim­ing that the lawyer is not en­gag­ing in gam­bling nor ask­ing pay­ment for le­gal ser­vices to the poor farm­ers and work­ers he helped.

As this de­vel­oped, the lead­ers and mem­bers of the Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Sugar Work­ers (NFSW) in north Ne­gros con­demned the killing of Ramos.

“Amid our be­reave­ment, and de­spite these vi­cious at­tacks against our ranks, the peas­ants of Ne­gros are ever de­ter­mined to con­tinue the strug­gle for so­cial jus­tice. The rel­a­tives and sur­vivors of the Sa­gay mas­sacre and other Ne­gros peas­ants who have be­come vic­tims of the bru­tal re­pres­sion car­ried out by the lo­cal govern­ment and the Us­duterte regime, have lost a fierce de­fender of their rights,” the group said in a press state­ment.

“The death of Atty. Ramos will bring forth more al­lies and de­fend­ers of the peas­ants. The lives of the cul­prits are worth­less to the peo­ple; their deaths are light as a feather,” the group said.

“Un­der the Us-duterte regime, the killings have be­come nor­mal fare in the news, and Ne­gros is not spared. The killing of Ramos is now in­cluded in the long list of ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings in the coun­try,” the state­ment said.

The strug­gling masses and their sup­port­ers have be­come easy tar­gets of state agents, their var­i­ous armed groups and hired guns. The per­pe­tra­tors are al­lowed to run free and evade re­spon­si­bil­ity with im­punity, it added.

The peo­ple of Ne­gros shall con­tinue the strug­gle for jus­tice, they said.

Ramos was also the lawyer of youth leader and Univer­sity of the Philip­pines in Cebu alumna Myles Al­basin and her five com­pan­ions, known as the Mabi­nay 6, who were ar­rested in March this year in Mabi­nay, Ne­gros Ori­en­tal fol­low­ing an al­leged clash with the govern­ment troop­ers although they later tested neg­a­tive for gun­pow­der residues.

He had also founded the farm­ers’ or­ga­ni­za­tion Paghiliusa Devel­op­ment Group and a found­ing sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Septem­ber 21 move­ment, a hu­man rights al­liance and the lo­cal chap­ter of Kara­p­atan.

He was also one of the quick re­sponse team to as­sist the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims of the Sa­gay 9, wherein nine farm­ers were mur­dered in Sa­gay City on Oc­to­ber 20.

As­so­ciates of Ramos said he had been re­ceiv­ing death threats be­cause of his hu­man rights work and had been in­cluded in a mil­i­tary pro­duced tar­pau­lin ban­ner show­ing al­leged com­mu­nist rebels on Ne­gros.*

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