No progress in probe on slaying of Negros rights lawyer a year after, wife says
ILOILO CITY –– The family and friends of slain human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos Jr. marked the first year after his killing on Wednesday, still crying out for justice.
His family, along with farmers groups and the staff of the Paghida-et sa Kauswagan Development Group (PDG), a non-government organization that Ramos cofounded, held a get-together and program at the covered court of Barangay 1 in Kabankalan City in Negros Occidental.
The gathering was followed by a forum before they held a protest rally at the city rotunda.
There has been no significant progress in the investigation on her husband’s death, Ramos’ widow Clarissa said.
“We have kept silent hoping that the police will pursue my husband’s killers. But the attacks and threats against our colleagues have not stopped. We are expecting that any time, they will also raid our office,” Clarissa told the INQUIRER.
A gunman accompanied by an accomplice shot Ramos dead on November 6, 2018, in front of a store in Kabankalan.
He is among the 43 lawyers, judges, and prosecutors gunned down under the Duterte administration, according to the National Union of Lawyers of the Philippines (NUPL).
Ramos was the NUPL founding member and secretary-general of its Negros chapter. As co-founder of PDG, he also handled mostly cases of farmers, political prisoners, and victims of human rights violations.
No arrest has been made and police have not identified those responsible for the lawyer’s killing.
Clarissa said the police last spoke to her in July, informing her that there was no progress because the gunman and his accomplice wore masks.
“Ben was publicly vilified and accused as a (New People’s Army) leader by the military in forums and statements before he was killed,” she said.
“There’s a lack of any significant effort by the government to run after his killers. They will not run after them because they (the government) are responsible,” she said.
Police and military officials have repeatedly denied being involved in the death of Ramos and others killed by unidentified perpetrators.
The NUPL said that as they commemorate Ramos’ death, they were also battling “an orchestrated crackdown against legitimate dissenters and critics of the government reminiscent of the Marcos martial law era.”
Clarissa said the lack of progress in the investigation of her husband’s killing was in contrast to the continued threats received by the PDG staff who were sent death threats, including altered photographs with their faces inside coffins.
The PDG personnel in their office in Kabankalan, and Clarissa’s family, have been sleepless since police and military operatives arrested 57 persons in raids in offices of progressive organizations in Bacolod and Escalante cities over the weekend.
“We are expecting to be the next target because they want to silence all those critical of the government, even organizations helping farmers like the PDG,” she said.
“It is risky but we don’t have a choice. This is not a time to be silent,” she said. /lzb
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