[Statement] Amidst the yuletide cheer, another rights defender gunned-down -PNFSP

Amidst the yuletide cheer, another rights defender gunned-down

The Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes, Inc. (PNFSP) condemns the cold-blooded murder of our colleague and fellow development worker and people’s lawyer, Atty. Benjamin Tarug Ramos. Atty. Ben, as what we all call him, is the founding member of Paghida-et sa Kauswagan Development Group, Inc. (PDG), a non-government organization established in 1986 servicing the poor and marginalized communities in Southern Negros Occidental. He is also the Secretary General of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) Negros Occidental Chapter.

Atty. Ben was shot dead in Kabankalan last night by motorcycle-riding men while he was taking a break after he had just finished writing a legal paper for another of his many pro-bono clients. He sustained three gunshot wounds at the right back side and left upper chest of his body which caused his death. Several days before his assassination, suspicious men in motorcycle were observed tailing him. Atty. Ben has been under military surveillance since 2006.

We are stunned and shattered because for us who know Atty. Ramos, he is passionate on his line of work, dedicated in serving the poor and marginalized. He was a founding member of NUPL and for the long period of time, he served as lawyer for peasants, environmental defenders, activists, political prisoners, development workers and mass organizations in the island of Negros. He had been very passionate in providing services to the people of the Island of Negros through socio-economic projects on sustainable agriculture and appropriate technologies.

For the past months, he was maliciously tagged in a public poster by the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines (15th Infantry Battalion) as among the so-called personalities of the underground armed movement (CPP-NPA-NDF). He was branded as a terrorist like many other critics of Duterte administration. For the record, Atty. Ben is the 34th lawyer killed under the 2-year administration of President Duterte. Excluding judges and prosecutors, he is the 24th member of the profession killed and the 8th in the Visayas. Most alarming is that majority of those killed were handling cases of political prisoners, human rights and human rights defenders, suspected rebels, development workers and suspected poor drug users.

We must not tolerate any monstrous attacks against development workers, people’s lawyers, and activists who are just practicing their professions, advocacies and beliefs to serve the poor and marginalized. We must all unite to resist the growing fascism of the Duterte administration.###

Renmin Vizconde, Executive Director

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