Mabinay 6 lawyer slain; transfer of hearings urged
The six activists who were tagged as communist rebels and arrested by the military in Mabinay town, Negros Oriental want the Supreme Court (SC) to transfer the venue of their hearings from Bais City, Negros Oriental to Cebu City.
This developed after one of their lawyers, Ben Ramos, was shot dead by still unidentified assailants in Kabankalan City, Negros Oriental on Tuesday evening (November 6) while on his way home.
Lawyer Ian Sapayan, on of the lawyers of the activists, now known as the Mabinay 6 and vice chairperson for the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) in Visayas, expressed concern over their safety after Ramos’ death.
“We’re afraid that when we step again in Negros, we too will be killed… It’s risky to travel back to Negros. One of our priorities right now is our safety,” said Sapayan.
Ramos was handling the case of illegal possession of firearms lodged against the Mabinay 6, including youth leader and University of the Philippines Cebu (UP Cebu) alumna Myles Albasin. The military alleged that a shootout happened with military troops last March.
He was also a member of the quick reaction team for the peasants in Sagay town, Negros Oriental where nine sugar workers were massacred last month.
The wake of Ramos will be in Kabankalan City where he was born and raised, said Sapayan. Ramos, secretary-general for NUPL – Negros, is survived by his wife, Clarissa, and their three children.
Ramos’ death sparked condemnation and outrage not only from NUPL but also from other groups critical of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, including the Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Grace Albasin, Myles’ mother, extended her sympathies and expressed sadness over Ramos’ death.
“He knew he was targeted, but it didn’t deter his spirit to take the cases of the ordinary folks including the Mabinay 6. He lived for the people without fear. The legacy he left behind is etched in the hearts of the people he served,” Grace said in a statement sent to reporters. NUPL, in a separate statement, reported that Ramos is the 34th lawyer killed under the Duterte administration, and eighth in the Visayas.
“We are urging the investigators to conduct a thorough investigation on the matter, free from any influence, and we’re hoping they know and will do what is right,”
Although police are yet to establish the motive into the slay of Ramos, Sapayan said they suspected it was in relation to the cases he is currently handling.
“Three weeks ago, we started the hearings for the motion we filed to allow the Mabinay 6 to post bail. Attorney Ben was set to cross-examine the final witness this November 21,” explained Sapayan.
“We will not attend the November 21 hearing,” he added.
Sapayan also said they do not discount the possibility that Ramos’ death could be a case of state-sponsored killing.
He showed to members of the media a copy of a flier allegedly made and distributed by the military in Negros Occidental, accusing Ramos and 60 other individuals, of being members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). “Anyone they found out who was helping the poor, will be tagged as communist, including our members from NUPL. Just like the lawyers defending drug suspects, this is the danger we’re facing now,” said Sapayan.
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