WHO IS HE?
Families of ‘Sagay 9’ victims insist of not knowing slain lawyer
SAGAY CITY - We do not know him.
This was stressed by the families of the nine slain farmers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental, contrary to the claim of progressive groups that lawyer Benjamin Ramos Jr. was one of the members of the quick response team that proceeded to the city to provide assistance to them when the massacre happened at Bulanon village on October 20.
On November 6, Ramos, a peasant advocate, and counsel of the six alleged NPA members who were arrested in Mabinay, Negros Oriental in March this year, was shot at close range by motorcycle-riding assailants in front of a store near the public plaza at Barangay 5 in Kabankalan City.
“Wala kami na nakakilala sa iya. Wala kami na kakita sa iya” (We don’t know him. We haven’t seen him), said one of the victims’ families during a press conference at Balay Kauswagon here yesterday.
They claimed that they haven’t met any lawyers that helped them on the case, but only one fiscal.
As this developed, one of the representatives of the Bantigue family also claimed that Ramos did not provide any assistance to them on the Sagay murder case.
“Naisip ko po na sinasabi nila na baka pinatay siya dahil
tumulong siya sa kaso ng Sagay massacre. Baka po para ma lihis po ang pagtutok ng awtoridad sa nangyaring massacre” ( I just thought that maybe they were saying that he was killed because he assisted us on the case of the Sagay massacre. Probably, it was just to deviate the focus of the authorities on the massacre),” she said.
She said: “If indeed it was their real motive, we cannot give justice to the victims of the ‘Sagay 9’ because authorities will focus more on the case of the slain lawyer.”
For his part, Colonel Benedict Arevalo, commanding officer of the 303rd Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army, who was also present at the press briefing yesterday, said he was surprised about the statement of the families of the slain farmers.
“Hindi iyan scripted. Hindi nga daw nila kakilala si Atty. Ramos (It’s not scripted. They even don’t know Atty. Ramos),” Arevalo said.
Arevalo said the government will not gain anything from the death of Ramos.
If “Sagay 9” to them is a lie, the killing of Atty. Ramos is also a big lie, he told the Communist Party of the Philippines-new People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
Police are eyeing three angles on his death – gambling, counseling of “land grabbing” farmers, and a grudge.
Authorities have already persons of interest but refused to reveal their identities as of press time.
Meanwhile, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)– Negros, in a press release, said they abhor the police’s pattern of blaming the victims of extrajudicial killings (EJKS) as a mere excuse of investigating groups and individuals who have the strongest motive; promoter and implementer of social injustices and vilification campaign.
“The pattern of the police is presenting various angle just like ‘Sagay 9’ massacre, then picking up the outrageous motive, and conclusively pin it to the victim themselves,” said Bayan-negros secretarygeneral Michael Dela Concepcion.
Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao, director of Police Regional Office (Pro)–western Visayas, was quick to label it as part of the debunked Red October plot while the Sagay City police admitted the investigation was not yet finished, and yet to have an affidavit of landlord and leaser, Dela Concepcion said.
Bulalacao pointed out that members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) and Atty. Ben Ramos infuriated landlords, but failed to further investigate them after acknowledging the landlords’ means and motive to liquidate opposition, which tantamounts in absolution, he said.
On Ramos’ case, police should investigate the 303rd IB that started the vilification campaign that leads to the lawyer’s murder, he added.*