7 November 2018@
On the cold-blooded murder of NUPL officer Atty. Ben Ramos
WHO WILL DEFEND THE DEFENDERS?
We are shocked, devastated and enraged at the premeditated cold-blooded murder of our colleague and fellow people’s lawyer, Atty. Benjamin Tarug Ramos, our Secretary General for the NUPL Negros Occidental Chapter.
Ben who was 56 years old was shot dead in Kabankalan last night by motorcycle-riding men while taking a break after he had just finished a legal paper for another of his many pro bono clients. He sustained three gunshot wounds at the right back side and left upper chest of his body and was declared dead on arrival at the hospital.
The passionate, dedicated and articulate yet amiable and jolly Ben, was a founding member of NUPL. Despite limitations, he was for the longest time the “go-to” pro-bono lawyer of peasants, environmentalists, activists, political prisoners and mass organizations in Negros.
Earlier, he was maliciously and irresponsibly tagged in a public poster by the Philippine police as among the so-called personalities of the underground armed movement.
Ben is the 34th lawyer killed under the 2-year administration of President Duterte. Excluding judges and prosecutors, he is the 24th member of the profession killed and the 8th in the Visayas.
These beastly attacks by treacherous cowards cannot go on. Not a few of our members have been attacked and killed before while literally practicing their profession and advocacies in the courts, in rallies, in picket lines, in urban poor communities, and in fact-finding missions.
Of late, a number of us have received threats for handling cases of political prisoners, suspected rebels, environmentalists, and suspected poor drug users.
The NUPL and its key officers have themselves been increasingly labelled and branded pejoratively by the police, military, vigilantes, some bigoted columnists, and online trolls, in open contempt of basic principles of the role of lawyers in society.
The head of our Women and Children’s Desk, law professor Atty. Katherine Panguban, is presently being pilloried by the police, landlords and even biased prosecutors for performing her duty in a fact-finding mission and in assisting victims of a massacre of peasants in Sagay, Negros, which Atty. Ben also responded to as part of a Quick Reaction Team.
Atty. Kathy herself is facing absolutely fabricated and unbelievably ridiculous non-bailable police complaints of kidnapping a 14-year old who is in fact in the rightful custody, care and protection of her biological mother.
The killing of our beloved, adorably husky-voiced zany, Ben has distressed all of us, battle-scarred and seemingly undaunted and impervious to threats and dangers while courageously, even at times audaciously, running against the tide of daily injustice, oppression and repression in defense of the defenseless and persecuted.
But who will defend the defenders?
Our clients will.
The people and their various organizations will.
And we the lawyers of the people will not be cowed, will not blink, will not retreat, we will not look the other way, and we will stand our ground. Yet we will close ranks.
We will be there in the trenches in defense of the defenseless. There is no other choice.
It is a painful price we have to pay sometimes in the service of the people and as a pledge to the next generations we will leave behind.
Padayon gid! #
Atty. Edre U. Olalia
Atty. Ephraim B. Cortez
NUPL Secretary General
Atty. Josalee S. Deinla
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)
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“By calling yourselves the ‘people’s lawyer,’ you have made a remarkable choice. You decided not to remain in the sidelines. Where human rights are assaulted, you have chosen to sacrifice the comfort of the fence for the dangers of the battlefield. But only those who choose to fight on the battlefield live beyond irrelevance.”
– Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, in his message at the NUPL Founding Congress, September 15, 2007
“After long years of experience as a people’s lawyer, I can honestly say it has been a treasured journey of self-fulfillment and rewarding achievement. I know it will be the same for all others who choose to tread this path.”
– Atty. Romeo T. Capulong, NUPL founding chairperson, in his keynote address at the Fifth Conference of Lawyers in Asia Pacific ( COLAP V), September 18, 2010