'ENGAGE IN VICE'
Lawyer’s death may due to gambling, ‘land grabbing’ farmers’ case, grudge
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.
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.*