“WHY would I kill a lawyer? Napaka-small time ko naman. Why would I assassinate him? For what?”
President Rodrigo Duterte denied he was behind the killing of a lawyer for communists, as critics blamed the Philippine National Police for the death of human rights lawyer and peasant advocate Benjamin Ramos in Negros Occidental.
“Whether you have a lawyer or not, you cannot occupy somebody else’s land by force and intimidation. I will not allow it. That’s anarchy,” Duterte said in a speech at the distribution of certificates of land ownership award in Boracay, Thursday, Nov. 8.
Duterte also blasted the Left in the same speech . “Of course, the communists will never conquer us. They can never overwhelm this government. But certainly it will not stop trouble.”
Ramos, secretary general of the Negros Occidental arm of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, was shot dead by riding-in-tandem killers on Tuesday evening, November 6, in Kabankalan City.
Ramos represented political prisoners, farmers, and other marginalized sectors during his career as pro-bono lawyer. According to ABS-CBN News, he also helped the National Federation of Sugar Workers after unidentified assailants killed 9 sugarcane farmers -- called the “Sagay 9” -- at Hacienda Nene in Sagay City, Negros Occidental.
Malacañang earlier slammed critics for blaming the government for Ramos’ death. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said doing so “is reckless, irresponsible, and baseless.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) tagged the incident as “a blow to the human rights movement in the country” which has suffered from threats, including from Duterte himself.
“We demand an impartial investigation into Ramos’ murder and the many other attacks against lawyers in the Philippines and that the authorities bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Carlos Conde of HRW Asia Division.