SAGAY CITY -- The families of the nine slain farmers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental deny knowing slain lawyer Benjamin Ramos Jr. whom progressive groups claim was part of the quick response team who provided assistance to them.
On November 6, Ramos, a peasant advocate, and counsel of the six alleged NPA members who were arrested in Mabinay, Negros Oriental in March this year, was shot at close range by motorcycle-riding assailants in front of a store near the public plaza at Barangay 5 in Kabankalan City.
“Wala kami na nakakilala sa iya. Wala kami na kakita sa iya” (We don’t know him. We haven’t seen him), said one of the victims’ families during a press conference at Balay Kauswagon here Friday, November 9.
They claimed that they haven’t met any lawyers that helped them on the case, but only one fiscal.
As this developed, one of the representatives of the Bantigue family also claimed that Ramos did not provide any assistance to them on the Sagay murder case.
“Naisip ko po na sinasabi nila na baka pinatay siya dahil tumulong siya sa kaso ng Sagay massacre. Baka po para ma lihis po ang pagtutok ng awtoridad sa nangyaring massacre” (I just thought that maybe they were saying that he was killed because he assisted us on the case of the Sagay massacre. Probably, it was just to deviate the focus of the authorities on the massacre),” she said.
She said: “If indeed it was their real motive, we cannot give justice to the victims of the ‘Sagay 9’ because authorities will focus more on the case of the slain lawyer.”
For his part, Colonel Benedict Arevalo, commanding officer of the 303rd Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army, who was also present at the press briefing Friday, said he was surprised about the statement of the families of the slain farmers.
“Hindi iyan scripted. Hindi nga daw nila kakilala si Atty. Ramos (It’s not scripted. They even don’t know Atty. Ramos),” Arevalo said.
Arevalo said the government will not gain anything from the death of Ramos.
Police are eyeing three angles on his death – gambling, acting as counsel of “land grabbing” farmers, and grudge.
Authorities said they already have persons of interest but refused to reveal their identities as of press time.
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)–Negros criticized the police pattern of victim blaming.
“The pattern of the police is presenting various angle just like ‘Sagay 9’ massacre, then picking up the outrageous motive, and conclusively pin it to the victim themselves,” said Bayan-Negros secretary-general Michael Dela Concepcion.
The militant leader said Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao, director of Police Regional Office (PRO)–Western Visayas, was quick to label it as part of the debunked Red October plot while the Sagay City police admitted the investigation was not yet finished.
Dela Concepcion also pointed out that the police even said that members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) and lawyer Ben Ramos infuriated landlords.
But police, he said, did not pursue investigating them. He added it was the police who acknowledged that these landlords have the means and motive to liquidate opposition but nothing was done to further investigate them.
Dela Serna said this is tantamount to absolving them.
On Ramos’ case, police should investigate the 303rd IB that started the vilification campaign leading to the lawyer’s murder, he added.