MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday slammed critics who blame his administration for the death of human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos.
“What the f***** s**? Why would I kill a lawyer? Napaka small-time (That’s small-time)… Why would I assassinate him? For what?” Duterte said in a speech in Boracay, where he distributed certificates of land award to agrarian reform beneficiaries.
Ramos, secretary-general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers’ Negros Occidental chapter, was gunned down in front of a store on Roxas Street, Barangay 5 in Kabankalan. He most recently served as lawyer of a farmers' group whose members were killed in Sagay City last month.
Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao earlier blamed the Duterte government for the “rising level of impunity” in the country, while ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said “there is blood in the hands of the Duterte administration” over Ramos’ killing.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, however, said blaming the government for Ramos’ death was “reckless [and] irresponsible, [and it is] baseless as well.”
“Authorities are now conducting a speedy and impartial investigation with respect to the incident and pertinent agencies will do all they can to ensure that the perpetrators of this detestable atrocity are brought to justice," Panelo said in a statement.
“He (Duterte) will spare no one in his relentless drive against criminality pursuant to the constitutional directive for him to protect and serve the country's citizenry.”
Ramos assisted the National Federation of Sugar Workers after 9 of its members were killed by unidentified gunmen at Hacienda Nene in Sagay town last month.
The police and the military have tagged communist New People’s Army rebels for the killing of the farmers, saying the guerrillas want to create an environment of instability.
In his speech, Duterte again warned leftists against taking over idle lands.
“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,” he said.
“Kaya ‘pag pumasok kayo, my orders to the police and the military, evict them. Evict them out physically and if they choose to fight, kill them. Mabuti mag-prankahan tayo.”