A human rights lawyer in the central Philippines who helped a group of farmers after nine sugar cane workers were murdered
in Negros Occidental province last month was shot dead on Nov. 6. Benjamin Ramos was shot three times while talking to a shop owner in the town of Kabankalan and declared dead on arrival at a local hospital. He was 56. In a statement, the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers
described Ramos as a "passionate, dedicated and articulate yet amiable and jolly" person who regularly represented farmers and activists. Ramos was a founding member of the lawyers' group and secretary-general of its chapter in Negros Occidental province. Before his death, posters appeared in several locations accusing Ramos of being a New People's Army communist guerrilla. "These beastly attacks by treacherous cowards cannot go on," read a statement from the lawyers' group, adding that many of its members have been attacked and killed while going about their work. "It is a painful price we have to pay sometimes in the service of the people," the group's statement said. Ramos was shot by at least two men on motorcycles, according to witnesses. According to the lawyers' group, Ramos was the 34th lawyer killed since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power. In a statement, Human Rights Watch
denounced the killing, calling the murder "a further indictment of the impunity that has worsened under the administration of President Duterte." "It is a blow to the human rights movement in the country," it said. "We demand an impartial investigation into Ramos' murder and the many other attacks against lawyers in the Philippines and that the authorities bring the perpetrators to justice," the rights group added. The Commission on Human Rights said it has already sent a "quick response team" to look into the killing. "We call on the government to act with urgency in pinning down the perpetrators of this violence and proceed with active measures that would protect the safety of human rights defenders," read the commission's statement.