Benjamin Ramos, 56, was an attorney and Secretary General of his local chapter of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers, through which he worked on numerous human rights cases including the massacre of nine farmworkers in Sagay, as well as several cases of peasants and activists who were imprisoned, forcibly disappeared or killed.
He was also the executive director of the Paghidaet sa Kauswagan Development Group (PDG), a non-governmental institution assisting peasants in Negros. In a statement issued after the murder, human rights organisation Karapatan described him as a “people’s lawyer who unflinchingly stood alongside the poor and oppressed in Negros and a feisty human rights defender who dedicated his life to selfless service for the downtrodden.” Atty. Ben was shot on 6 November, 2018 in Kabankalan City by gunmen on a motorcycle. He died before reaching the hospital.
Karapatan also highlighted the fact that in April 2018, the Philippine National Police in Negros placed Atty. Ben’s name and picture in “what can only be described as a poster-hitlist [which] made him and other mass leaders and human rights workers open targets for precisely this kind of attack.” It went on to state that “the killing of Atty. Ben occurred at a time when authorities have been twisting the narrative on the massacre of the nine farmworkers in Sagay, Negros Occidental and when Atty. Katherine Panguban of NUPL and Karapatan are being charged with false accusations of kidnapping and serious illegal detention of a 14-year old witness to the said massacre.
All these are being done in an attempt to silence dissent and to muffle the truth. All these are being done to foster the climate of impunity in the Philippines.” The statement finished with a pledge to the perpetrators: “we will hound you with our resolute commitment to bring justice for all victims like Atty. Ben. We will never be silenced, we will never be cowed, we will never waver in our struggle for people’s rights and for genuine freedom and democracy.”