Unyielding Voices: MASIPAG’s Continued Demand for Justice on the 5th year of Atty. Ben Ramos Death – People’s Lawyer and Champion of Landless Farmers

November 6, 2023

by MASIPAG National Office

In the fifth year since the death of Atty. Benjamin “Ben” Ramos, people’s lawyer and former MASIPAG board of trustee, the farmer-led network solemnly remembers his courageous advocacy for human rights, democracy, and the plight of the Filipino farmers. Atty. Ben Ramos, a staunch human and farmers rights defender and dedicated lawyer was murdered by still unidentified assailants last 2018 in Negros Oriental. While justice remains aloof over his death up until today, Atty. Ben’s legacy continues to inspire us to fight for justice, uphold human and farmers rights, and protect the democratic space in our country.

Today, we gather to highlight the alarming and further worsening human rights crisis in the Philippines. As of October of this year, human rights organization KARAPATAN has documented more than 60 victims of extrajudicial killings since Marcos Jr took power where 20 of the victims were from Negros. Of the 20 victims from Negros, majority were staunch rural development workers advocating for human and farmers’ rights in the province and were also red-tagged prior to their deaths, which Atty. Ben himself experienced prior to his murder in 2018.

The erosion of democratic values and the diminishing space for rightful dissent pose a grave threat to the principles upon which our country was founded. It is our collective responsibility to safeguard these values and protect the rights and freedoms of every Filipino citizen, especially our small farmers.

Atty. Ben Ramos was a fervent advocate for farmers’ rights, recognizing them as fundamental human rights. Along with MASIPAG, 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 tirelessly amplified and 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 dispossed. 

As we commemorate his 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 our farmers such as the enforcement of rice tariffication law, massive land use conversions, and lack of genuine agrarian reform on one hand, the enforcement of Anti-Terror Law that easily designates anyone, mostly rightful dissenters asking for better alternatives to the current chemical and capital intensive agriculture and landlessless, the government must instead heed the call of the Filipino farmers: institutionalize and uphold genuine agrarian reform and farmer-led agroecology.

We call upon the Philippine government and all relevant authorities to uphold human rights, protect the democratic space, and ensure the safety and well-being of human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, activists, and farmers. We urge the Philippine government to conduct thorough and impartial investigations into all attacks against human rights defenders, including the case of Atty. Ben Ramos, and to hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions.

As we reflect on Atty. Ben’s legacy, MASIPAG encourages everyone to renew our commitment in defending human rights, promoting democracy, and advocating for the rights of farmers. Let us stand together, united in our pursuit of justice and more just, equal, and democratic society.