Negros lawyer's slay 'devastating', says HRW researcher

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Posted at Nov 08 2018 02:35 PM

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The fatal shooting of a lawyer who assisted farmers after the massacre of 9 sugarcane workers in Negros Occidental is "devastating" for rights activists, a researcher for the international watchdog Human Rights Watch said Thursday. 

Benjamin Ramos, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers Negros Occidental chapter, was gunned down by motorcycle-riding assailants in Kabankalan town last Tuesday night.

He was a pro-bono lawyer of peasants, environmentalists, activists, political prisoners and mass organizations. Before his killing, he assisted the National Federation of Sugar Workers after 9 of its members were killed by unidentified gunmen at Hacienda Nene in Sagay town in October. 

"He and his colleagues were representing some of the most marginalized Filipinos... Tinatarget na nga itong mga marginalized sector, and then you kill the lawyers that represent them. It's really quite devastating," HRW researcher Carlos Conde told ANC. 

"It's an indictment of how really low we've sunk in terms of human rights in the Philippines that pati mga lawyers na ginagawa lang naman is to protect the rights of these other victims [are killed]," he added. 

While killings are not new, the Duterte administration created an "enabling environment" where people "accept this violence as the norm," he said. 

For instance, Conde noted that those who condemn killings are "easily slammed by comments or bullied" on social media. 

The public, he said, should nonetheless "feel offended by these human rights abuses happening because one of these days, it will happen to them." 

ANC, 8 November 2018