Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has denounced the brazen killing of human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos whose death adds to the snowballing record of legal professionals killed for discharging their mandate.
De Lima, a lawyer by profession, said that members of the legal profession are not spared from attacks and killings in a government where a reigning culture of impunity is encouraged by no less than President Duterte himself.
“The rash of killings of individuals tasked to ensure that justice is done calls for serious government attention and action not only to ensure that justice will be served for victims and their families, but also to prevent more losses in the future,” she said.
“Atty. Ramos’ death is familiar as it is extremely atrocious. Since suspects are rarely caught knowing that they can easily get away with crimes like this, the trend of targeting lawyers and other court officials continue to be common practice under this regime,” she added.
Based on news reports, Ramos was shot dead by motorcycle-riding assailants while he was in front of a sari-sari store near the public plaza in Barangay 5, Kabankalan City last Nov. 6.
A peasant advocate, Ramos is the secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers Negros Occidental Chapter who had also founded the farmers’ organization Paghiliusa Development Group.
He is known to have assisted the National Federation of Sugar Workers after nine of its members were massacred by unidentified assailants at Hacienda Nene in Sagay town last month.
De Lima, along with other members of the Senate minority bloc, has also filed Senate Resolution No. 929 which calls for a Senate investigation into the massacre of nine sugarcane farmers not only to find out the truth about the incident but also to address the plight of farmers.
With these disturbing records of deaths, De Lima called on her colleagues to finally act on the resolution she filed last April which sought to look into the spate of killings and attacks against members of the legal profession, especially those lawyers who are handling high-profile cases.
In her Senate Resolution No. (SRN) 668, De Lima said that since the beginning of the Duterte administration, the numbers of lawyers killed have increased and without any significant executive or legislative action taken.
“The death of Atty. Ramos – a man who exemplified courage in defending the marginalized against the powerful – should prompt the government to investigate his death, as with the killings of other legal professionals, and bring the perpetrators to justice,” she said.
According to the initial data from the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), 24 lawyers have been killed in just a span of two years, excluding judges and prosecutors and 15 of which remain unresolved. Aside from SRN 668, De Lima also earlier filed SB No. 1721 which seeks to amend Article 14 of the Revised Penal Code, adding as an aggravating circumstance the crime committed against lawyers and justice sector officials.