Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (7 November) on the murder of human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos on 6 November 2018 in Negros Occidental :
I utterly condemn the callous murder of Benjamin Ramos. As a human rights defender and lawyer, he worked on a voluntary basis to promote the rights of the weakest groups in Philippine society. He most recently provided legal support for the families of nine farmers who were brutally murdered in the same region on 20 October. There is absolutely no excuse for simple farmers and the people who stand up for their rights having to fear for their lives. No stone must be left unturned in the efforts to investigate these heinous murders and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The human rights defender Benjamin Ramos Jr was shot in the Philippine province of Negros Occidental on 6 November. He was Secretary-General of the branch of the National Union of People’s Lawyers in Negros Occidental and worked as a volunteer to promote the rights of marginalised groups in the Philippines. Just a few weeks before his murder, nine farmers including three women and two adolescents were murdered on a sugar-cane plantation in the same region. Their attackers have not yet been identified. Ramos provided the families of the deceased with legal support after the murder.
Conflicts over land rights have huge potential for violence in the Philippines, stretching even to murder. On the island of Negros alone, figures provided by the Federation of Agricultural Workers indicate that 45 farmers have been killed since President Duterte took office.