The Philippines: A voice silenced

November 10, 2018


He was taking a break from a day’s labor in behalf of a client who was a political prisoner. This was a task long familiar to Ben Ramos, 56, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)-Negros, who had devoted many years of his life to giving voice to human rights victims and citizens in conflict with government, fighting for their rights and standing up to the powerful.

Late in the evening of Nov. 6, Ramos had stepped out of his house in Kabankalan City, bought some cigarettes and was smoking and chatting with the store owner when two men riding tandem on a motorcycle fired shots at the human rights lawyer. Ramos suffered four gunshot wounds and was declared dead on arrival at the hospital.

At once, the NUPL and other human rights organizations expressed their outrage at the killing of Ramos. “We are shocked, devastated and enraged at the premeditated cold-blooded murder of our colleague and fellow people’s lawyer,” said the NUPL in a statement signed by Edre Olalia, president of the group, and other officers.

It is obvious from the descriptions offered by his colleagues and friends in the precarious profession of human rights lawyering that Ramos was not just a diligent and devoted lawyer, but a fine human being as well. The NUPL described him as “passionate, dedicated and articulate yet amiable and jolly.” And in language surprising in the usually “grim and determined” statements of activist groups, the NUPL later characterized Ramos as “our beloved, adorably husky-voiced zany Ben.” He was obviously much-liked.

Given his training and background as a lawyer, Ramos could very well have turned his attention to more lucrative pursuits, as have the majority of law graduates before him. Instead, Ramos was, said the lawyers’ group, “the ‘go-to’ pro-bono lawyer of peasants, environmentalists, activists, political prisoners and mass organizations in Negros.” It was a career choice that not only paid poorly, if at all, but also put him on the frontlines of confrontations—in picket lines, in courtrooms and detention centers—as he spoke up for his poor and powerless clients.

Urgent Alert Ben Ramos




The European Union Delegation issues the following statement in agreement with the EU Heads of Mission in the Philippines:
The European Union strongly condemns the killing by unidentified men on 6 November 2018 of Attorney Benjamin Tarug Ramos, Secretary General of Negros Occidental Chapter of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.
Attorney Ramos was the main lawyer for the National Federation of Sugar Workers in Negros Occidental and provided assistance to farmers following the killing of nine sugar cane farmers in Sagay on 20 October.
The European Union expresses its sincere condolences to the families of all the victims and looks to the ongoing investigations, as announced by the Government, to swiftly bring those responsible to justice.

(European Union in the Philippines Facebook, 09/11/18)

Re: A Statement of Solidarity to Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines

We, the undersigned, wish to express concern and disgust regarding the brazen attacks on human rights defenders in the Philippines. We strongly condemn the recent killing of Atty. Benjamin Ramos, 56, founding member and former Secretary General of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL). On November 6, 2018, he was gunned down by two unidentified gunmen in Negros Occidental, Philippines.

According to the NUPL, Ramos had just finished preparing a legal paper for one of his pro bono clients, which include peasants, workers, environmentalists, activists, political prisoners and mass organizations, when the shooting took place. He was the co-counsel for the families of nine sugar farm workers slain in Hacienda Nene, Sagay City, Negros Occidental on October 20, 2018. He was also representing six young activists arrested by the military, who had been maliciously linked them to the New People’s Army.

Because of his human rights work, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) accused Atty. Ramos of colluding with communist rebels. Atty. Ramos is the ninth lawyer killed in the Philippines this year. The other victims are:

1. John Ungab, February 19, 2018 in Ronda, Cebu
2. Henry Joseph Herrera, April 22, 2018, in Atimonan, Quezon
3. Salvador Solima and his wife, July 2, 2018, Cebu City
4. Rafael Atotubo, August 23, 2018, in Bacolod City.
5. Connie del Rio Villamor, 24 September 24, 2018, in Tagum City
6. Wilmer Donasco, Septembre 24, 2018, in Davao City
7. Edel Julio Romero, September 28, 2018, in Iloilo City
8. Jason Perera, September 29, 2018, in Laoag City

Thirty-four lawyers have been killed in the Philippines over the two year reign of President Duterte, including judges and prosecutors, according to NUPL. These killings of members of the legal community comes as President Duterte’s war on drugs, war on terror, war on women and war on the poor counts its victims in the thousands.

The killings, smear campaigns, death threats and harassments against human rights defenders in the Philippines are a clear violation of UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. According to this declaration:

Article 1
Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.

Article 12 (2)
The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.

Lawyers play a crucial role in upholding the fundamental rights of the people. They also protect the pillars of democracy as they facilitate the administration of justice. In the Philippines, human rights lawyers defend the marginalized and the defenseless. To kill a human rights lawyer is an obvious attempt to silence those who speak for the unheard and the voiceless. It is an attempt to deter lawyers and members of the legal profession to fulfill their roles as guardians of justice.

In the context of the intensifying human rights violations committed with impunity in the Philippines, it is timely that we, as members of the legal community in Canada and other concerned organizations, show our solidarity and unwavering support for human rights defenders in the Philippines. We urge the Canadian government to halt funding and cooperation, directly or indirectly, with the AFP, the PNP and other organizations who have been linked to human rights violations in the Philippines.

We call on the Philippine government to:

– Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in the country;
– Carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into the murder of Atty. Benjamin Ramos in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;
– Put an end to all acts of harassment against all human rights defenders in the Philippines, and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
– Conform to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Articles 1 and 12.2;
– Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the Philippines.

International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines – Canada
Association des juristes progressistes (A.J.P.), Québec
Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers, IAPL – International Association of People’s Lawyers
Nandini Ramanujam, McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism
Kirsten Anker, law professor, McGill University
Dominique Caouette, Political Science Professor, Université de Montréal
Radha De Souza, law professor, University of Westminster, United Kingdom
Gill Boehringer, former Dean, School of Law, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
Stuart Russell, lawyer (Ret.), administrative judge (Ret.), law professor (Ret.)
May Chiu, lawyer, Montreal
Hannah Deegan, lawyer, Montreal
Walter Chi-yan Tom, lawyer, Montreal
Kate Forrest, lawyer, Montreal
Diana Sitoianu, lawyer, Montreal
Mark Phillips, lawyer, Montreal
Kayle Sykes, lawyer, Montreal
Andrew E. Cleland, lawyer, Montreal
Justine Blair, student-at-law, Montreal
Jeff Li, student-at-law, Montréal
Deborah Guterman, student-at-law, Montreal
Andra Ioana Muraru, student-at-law, Montreal
Renz Grospe, Anakbayan Canada, student, École du Barreau du Québec, former law intern at NUPL
Steve Payette, graduate student in law, Université de Sherbrooke
Delphine Gauthier-Boiteau, graduate student in law, Université du Québec à Montréal
Aïssatou Fall, law student, Université du Québec à Montréal
Chris Albinati, lawyer, PhD Candidate, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Kareem Ibrahim, graduate student in law, University of British Columbia
Alexander Agnello, law student, McGill University, former law intern at Ateneo Human Rights Center
Alicia Blimkie, law student, McGill University, former law intern at Ateneo Human Rights Center
Sydney Lang, law student, McGill University
Angèle Poupard, law student, McGill University
Emilie Duchesne, law student, McGill University
Julianna Duholke, law student, McGill University
Alessa Dassios, law student, McGill University
Megan Lindy, law student, McGill University
Kerry Ann Marcotte, law student, McGill University
Lily Maya Wang, law student, McGill University
Alix Génier, law student, McGill University
Jan Nato, law student, McGill University
Noémie Ducret, law student, McGill University
Adelise Lalande, law student, McGill University
Bayan Canada
Migrante Canada
Centre for Philippine Concerns
Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
Canada Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights Solidarity for Human Rights
Kasama McGill
Kagawasan Liberation
Quebec Public Interest Research Group, McGill University…/1z8CDNn_y831dbveu5mTfg6fNyo…/edit…

(BAYAN Canada Facebook, 12/11/18)

COLAP STATEMENT Re: Killing of Benjamin Ramos

The Confederation of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific (COLAP) condemns in the strongest possible terms the cold-blooded murder of human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos in the Philippines. Ramos was gunned down by two unidentified men riding in tandem more or less an hour before midnight on November 6, 2018 in his town at Kabankalan City, Negros Island.

For many years, Ramos has been a staunch defender of the rights of the farmers human rights, not only in Negros Island also in other parts of the country. He was one of the handling lawyers of the infamous cases of Sagay 9 killing ang Mabinay 6 in Negros when he was killed. He was likewise critical of government’s policies and programs including the government’s war against drugs. In April this year, his name and photo was included in the list of persons tagged as communists in the posters circulated by the police in Negros. The cold-blooded murder of Ramos, following the red-tagging incident, is apparently not a blue moon in the series of extrajudicial killings of human rights defenders and activists in the Philippines and considering that he is the 34th member of the legal profession killed, most of which remain unresolved, under the more than two-year old Duterte administration.

The red-tagging by the state and subsequent treacherous killing of Ramos and of those many others show the state’s blatant disregard to human rights and the right to life. It is an affront to the members of the legal profession who are defenders of human rights and an insult to the international bill of rights.

As we mourn the loss of our colleague, we call on the Philippine government to conduct an impartial investigation on the brutal killing of Ramos, honor its obligations under international law, make the killings stop, end impunity, ensure independence in the practice of the legal profession without undue influence, lawless interferences and unsafe conditions, and respect the rights of the people enshrined in the Constitution and international laws We also call on other lawyers to remain resolute on their oath to protect the rights and defend the defenseless and not to cower in the face of these attacks. As our colleagues in the Philippines vow not to be cowed and stand their ground, we, likewise, gather our ranks, stand in solidarity with them in these trying times, albeit the distance, and pledge with them not to be deterred and to continue lawyering for the people, the defenseless, and the defenders in Asia and the Pacific. ###

For the Office Bearer and Executive Council,
Jitendra Sharma ( India)

Jun Sasamoto ( Japan)
Secretary General


(Confederation of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific – COLAP Facebook, 11/11/18)

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