Responding to the news that human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos gunned down by still unidentified men on 6 November, Ritz Lee Santos III, Amnesty International Philippines chairperson, said:
“The killing of a human rights lawyer is a new low in the worsening culture of impunity in the Philippines, and yet another blow to the government’s already dismal human rights record.
“Ramos’ murder is all the more alarming, in the midst of the bloody ‘war on drugs’ by the government that has already claimed the lives of thousands of people. When human rights defenders are silenced for good, who else will come to the defence of the growing number of victims of human rights abuses?
“We call on the government to swiftly launch a thorough and impartial investigation into the killing of Ramos, as well as of the numerous other lawyers and judges since the beginning of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Failure to do this will be tantamount to not just an utter disdain for the right to life, for which the current government is already being roundly criticised, it will also mean a further erosion of what little hope is left that this government is indeed committed to securing the safety and security of the Filipino people.”
According to news reports, Benjamin Ramos was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen on the night of 6 November in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental. He was a founding member of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), a group of human rights lawyers providing free legal aid to victims of human rights abuses.
The NUPL said Ramos had recently been providing free legal assistance to the families of nine sugar farm workers who were killed in Sagay City, Negros Occidental, on 20 October.
The NUPL said Ramos is the 34th lawyer killed under the Duterte administration. Prosecutor, judges, and local government officials have also been killed, including Ozamiz City regional trial court judge Edmundo Pintac, who had been overseeing drug cases when he was shot dead also by motorcycle-riding assailants on 8 October.