Duterte blasts communists: Why would I kill a lawyer?

Paterno Esmaquel II
'Napaka-small time ko naman. Why would I assassinate him?' says President Rodrigo Duterte days after human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos was killed

CHIEF EXECUTIVE. President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech after leading the ceremonial distribution of the Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) to the Region 10 beneficiaries held at the USTP Gymnasium, Claro M. Recto Avenue in Cagayan de Oro City on October 31, 2018. Malacañang photo

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte denied he was behind the killing of a lawyer for communists, as critics blamed the Philippine National Police for the death of human rights lawyer and peasant advocate Benjamin Ramos in Negros Occidental.

“What the fucking shit? Why would I kill a lawyer? Napaka-small time ko naman. (I would be too small time to do that.) Why would I assassinate him? For what?” Duterte said on Thursday, November 8, without naming any particular lawyer. 

“Whether you have a lawyer or not, you cannot occupy somebody else’s land by force and intimidation. I will not allow it. That’s anarchy,” Duterte said in a speech at the distribution of certificates of land ownership award in Boracay.

Duterte also blasted the Left in his speech on Thursday. “Of course, the communists will never conquer us. They can never overwhelm this government. But certainly it will not stop trouble.”

Ramos, secretary general of the Negros Occidental arm of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, was shot dead by riding-in-tandem killers on Tuesday evening, November 6, in Kabankalan City. 

Ramos represented political prisoners, farmers, and other marginalized sectors during his career as pro-bono lawyer. According to ABS-CBN News, he also helped the National Federation of Sugar Workers after unidentified assailants killed 9 sugarcane farmers– called the “Sagay 9” – at Hacienda Nene in Sagay City, Negros Occidental.

Malacañang earlier slammed critics for blaming the government for Ramos’ death. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said doing so “is reckless, irresponsible, and baseless.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) tagged the incident as “a blow to the human rights movement in the country” which has suffered from threats, including from Duterte himself.

“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,” said Carlos Conde of HRW Asia Division. – Rappler.com

Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.