We are saddened and outraged by the murder of Atty. Benjamin Ramos, a founding member of the National Union of People’s Lawyer (NUPL) and a fighter for justice. Atty. Ramos is now the 34th lawyer killed since Rodrigo Duterte came into power, most of them targeted for their much-needed pro-bono work for victims of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations.
Atty. Benjamin Ramos is a well-known human rights lawyer and Secretary General of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) – Negros Occidental Chapter. He was described as “passionate, dedicated and articulate yet amiable and jolly,” and for the longest time was “the run-to-pro-bono-lawyer of peasants, environmentalists, activists, political prisoners and mass organizations in Negros.” He was taking a break by a store in Kabankalan City after finishing a legal paper for another client when he was shot to death by two assailants riding tandem on a motorcycle on the night of November 6, 2018. Atty. Ramos was one of the lawyers who assisted the “Mabinay 6,” youth activists erroneously accused of being New People’s Army fighters, and the “Sagay 9” massacre victims and survivor, farmworkers who were occupying a vacant portion of Hacienda Nene in Sagay City, Negros Occidental.
The Duterte regime’s stand against human rights and democracy in the Philippines has encouraged more attacks on human rights defenders, activists and the poor, under the banner the so-called “war on drugs” and his counterinsurgency campaign, Oplan Kapayapaan. It is no coincidence that earlier this year, Atty. Ramos, among many other legal personalities and human rights defenders, was featured on a photo poster created by the Philippine National Police (PNP), declaring them as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and National Democratic Front of the Philippines, practically declaring them as enemies of the state. Lawyers like Atty. Ramos should not be attacked for the exercise of their profession. The vilification of human rights defenders is part of the Duterte administration’s attempt to justify the extrajudicial killings and silence government critics.
We are also deeply disturbed that the United States continues to condone these atrocities by its continued pledge of financial aid to the Philippine government despite growing international condemnation. Just this past July, the United States announced an additional $26.5 million in U.S. tax dollars to the Philippines, to beef up support for the Philippine National Police on top of the $184.5 million that goes towards the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for the next two years, as part of its counterterrorism plan. The continued funneling of U.S. tax dollars are tantamount to U.S. government’s active support and complicity in the ongoing human rights crisis in the Philippines.
We, the undersigned, call for justice for Atty. Benjamin Ramos and all victims of human rights violations under the Duterte regime. We call on all Filipinos and the American people to join the struggle against the killings and the creeping Duterte dictatorship. Let us support the fight for genuine freedom and democracy in the Philippines.
We demand that the Duterte regime stop its attacks against human rights defenders and end its murderous campaign against the poor and activists.
We demand that the United States government end its support and complicity in the human rights crisis in the Philippines by cutting all U.S. tax dollars for the PNP and the AFP.
Dr Dante C. Simbulan, Malaya Movement Co-Convener
Dr. Ligaya McGovern, Malaya Movement
Nerissa Balce, Malaya Movement
Filipino American Law Society of Santa Clara University- FALS SCU
Movimiento de Accion, Inspirando Servicio (MAiZ)
Anakbayan San Diego
ICHRP Pacific Northwest
New Jersey Forum for Human Rights
Migrante Orange County
Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition
Gabriela Washington D.C.
Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition
Pastor Stephen Lee, Alum Rock UMC
Hannah Duhaylungsod, NEFFCON
Primo Racimo, St. Margari of Scotland Episcopal Church
Pastor Ruth Casipit Paguio, Holy Family Episcopal Church of San Jose
Candice Sering, GABRIELA NY
Momo Manalang, Gabriela New York
Ellen Cachola, Decolonial Pin@y
Taiji Miyagawa, Progressive Asian Network for Action (PANA)
Jasper Perry-Anderson, Student Labor Action Coalition, Oberlin College
Tabitha Ponciano, Portland Committee for Human rights in the Philippines
Jordan Faralan, Anakbayan Seattle
Isabella Jaravata, Anakbayan Seattle
Michael Alcantara, Anakbayan Seattle
Rodrigo Bacus, NYCHRP
Glenn Ramirez, NYCHRP
Jhong Delacruz, Migrante Youth Fort Washington MD
Karol Ruiz, Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center
Rogyn Beyao, Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) Kalinga
Kate Dolorito, Diwang Kabataan
Jackelyn Mariano, National Lawyers Guild International Committee
Marijo Pempena, GABRIELA LA
Kerina Koch, Gabriela Oakland
Ruth Silver-Taube, Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition
ROXIE TORRES, Gabriela Seattle
Jessica Valdez, GABRIELA Seattle
Alec Summerfield, Baltimore Prisoner Solidarity Committee
Kiriko Takahashi, Esq.