5th anniversary of the assassination of Ben Ramos

On 13 November, at the invitation of Quinoa asbl and Defend the Defenders, 50 people, including ASTM representatives, gathered outside the Philippine embassy in Brussels to pay tribute to Filipino lawyer Ben Ramos, who was murdered on 6 November 2018.

Ben Ramos was also a development worker, founder and director of ASTM partner « Paguida-et sa Kauswagan » Development Group (PDG, Inc.) in the Philippines. Its objective is to contribute to the development of rural communities in the province of Negros Occidental. As a dedicated people’s lawyer, Ben Ramos extended his pro bono services to the rural poor in their struggle to assert their human rights and their rights to land and food throughout the island of Negros.

Because of his work, he had been threatened several times in the past.

Ben Ramos’ widow, Calrisa Ramos, also took part in the manifestation. During her speech, she turned around and passionately addressed the Philippine embassy with the following words:

« I am Clarisa Ramos, wife of the late Atty Ben Ramos Jr. We are standing here in front of the Philippine embassy to let the government know that we continue to call for and to prosecute the perpetrators of this heinous crime.

Ben’s love for the masses, his compassion for the poor and oppressed, his dedication to defend the cases of those unjustly killed or imprisoned, will always be remembered. You will always be our inspiration to continue the fight of all rights defenders until we are liberated from the imperialist oppressors and fascist government.

This rally is for all kasamas, rights defenders and activists who fell victims to the war on terror in the Philippines, and to those who still continue to dedicated their lives for the Filipino masses.”

In her speech, Birgit Engel from ASTM underlined that the erosion of democratic values and the diminishing space for rightful dissent pose a grave threat to the principles upon which the Philippines were founded. “It is our collective responsibility to safeguard these values and protect the rights and freedoms of every Filipino citizen, especially the small farmers. Atty. Ben Ramos was a fervent advocate for farmers’ rights. He tirelessly worked to empower farmers, amplify their voices, and defend their rights, especially their right to land against powerful interests. As a practicing lawyer, Atty. Ben brought the farmers of Negros’ battle cry of “land to the tillers” in the court scoring victories against landgrabbers and serving justice to the once landless and dispossessed.

As we commemorate Bens legacy and further call for justice, we emphasize the inseparable connection between farmers’ rights and human rights. Farmers are the backbone of our society, and their rights must be upheld and protected at all times. Rather than passing laws and initiatives that would further disempower the farmers such as the enforcement of rice tariffication law or massive land use conversions, the government must instead heed the call of the Filipino farmers by implementing genuine agrarian reform and farmer-led agroecology and by this eliminating one of the fundamental bases of social conflict in the Philippines. »

On this occasion, ASTM and its members reiterate their call for justice for Ben and other innocent human rights defenders. #DefendThe Defenders

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