Manila: One of the founding members of a Philippine lawyers’ group at the forefront of opposing President Rodrigo Duterte’s lethal war on drugs was gunned down Tuesday, killed by three bullets as he was leaving his office for the night.
The lawyer, Benjamin Ramos, 56, was the 34th lawyer killed since Duterte became president two years ago. His group, the National Union of People’s Lawyers, specialized in doing no-cost work for poor clients whose families have been targeted by police, soldiers and death squads associated with the president’s drug war.
“We are shocked, devastated and enraged at the premeditated, cold-blooded murder of our colleague and fellow people’s lawyer,” said Edre Olalia, a leader of the group. “We are disturbed and unbowed. These are dangerous times.”
Initial police reports said that Ramos had just finished work when he was shot by motorcycle-riding men near the central town of Kabankalan on Tuesday night. He was declared dead on arrival at the hospital.
Colleagues described Ramos as passionately dedicated to pro-bono work for the poor, environmentalists, activists and political prisoners.
The lawyers’ group said his work had angered local policemen and the military. His picture was recently included by the local police in a list of people accused of having ties to the underground communist movement, a claim the group has denied.
Jose Manuel Diokno, a human rights lawyer for another organization, the Free Legal Assistance Group, said he was outraged by the killing.
“I join the calls for the police to conduct an impartial and thorough investigation, to find the motive, the gunmen and the mastermind,” Diokno said in an interview, urging the Justice Department to take the lead in the inquiry. “I ask my fellow lawyers who fight for what is right and just to continue and not be cowed.”
In a speech in August 2017, Duterte told the national police not to be daunted by rights lawyers investigating the thousands of deaths of what he called drug addicts and dealers.
“If they are obstructing justice, you shoot them,” Duterte instructed police, referring to lawyers. (The president, himself a lawyer, began his political career as a prosecutor.)
He often carries a list of the names of dozens of judges, members of the armed and police forces as well as of local politicians he claims are protecting drug suspects.
Duterte has not publicly divulged how he came up with the list, although at least three mayors whose names appeared on it have been killed. Eight other mayors were also gunned down in suspicious circumstances. One of them was killed last year in a raid that left his wife and 10 other people dead. Another mayor was fatally shot during a flag-raising ceremony in July.
Olalia said that some members of the National Union of People’s Lawyers had received threats, and had been labelled by police and the military as sympathetic to the political left, in “open contempt of basic principles of the role of lawyers in democracy.”
He said a colleague investigating abuses against women and children, Katherine Panguban, had recently been criticized by police for leading a fact-finding mission into the killings of nine farmers in the central city of Sagay.
a statement. “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.”
PM Modi embraces Maldives as new leader Solih takes office, China out of favour
Male/New Delhi: Maldives’ President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih takes office , seeking help from India and the United States to climb out from under a mountain of Chinese debt that his predecessor racked up in a breakneck development of the coral islands.
The surprise defeat of pro-China strongman Abdulla Yameen has opened a window for India, the strategic outpost’s traditional political partner, to regain ground lost to Beijing in their tussle for regional dominance.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the highest ranking visitor at the inauguration at the national soccer stadium in the capital Male. By contrast, China’s highest-ranking attendee will be Culture and Tourism Minister Luo Shugang.
“I will convey to the new Maldivian government … the desire of my government to work closely for realisation of their developmental priorities, especially in areas of infrastructure, health care, connectivity and human resource development,” the Prime Minister said in a post on Facebook.
PM Modi’s presence signals the end of years of frosty relations because of Yameen’s embrace of China, a relationship that had deepened India’s anxieties about being encircled by countries leaning towards Beijing.
In Sri Lanka, an island nation to the southeast of India, the rivalry between New Delhi and Beijing has been one of the triggers for a political crisis in recent weeks.
The low-key Solih, a veteran lawmaker, has promised an “India first” policy in the Maldives, saying the small nation of a little over 400,000 people needs solid ties with its immediate neighbour.
His team is also reviewing millions of dollars of investments from China, as well as the related debt that the country has run up from Chinese lenders and how to restructure it.
Solih has said investigations will be launched to find out what happened and fix accountability, Adam Azim, a member of his transition committee, told reporters.
“We were led to believe it’s about USD 1.5 billion, the Chinese debt, but it could be worse,” said another member of Solih’s top economic team, which has been holding discussions with finance ministry officials during the transition following the election in September.
He said the team had already reached out to India, the United States and Saudi Arabia for financial assistance so it could tackle the debt.
“We straightaway need 200-300 million dollars to kick start the budgetary support,” the adviser said.
Debt of USD 1.5 billion would be more than a quarter of the country’s annual gross domestic product. Another member of the incoming president’s economic team said firm proposals for assistance had been discussed with Indian and US officials.
Cyclone Gaja hits Tamil Nadu, 30 killed, many homeless
Chennai: When ‘Gaja’ hovered over the Bay of Bengal near Nagapattinam district for the past one week, the public and all government stakeholders did little realise its ferocity.
With 30 persons dead, heavy winds uprooting thousands of trees in the delta districts and collapsed power lines, ‘Gaja’ tore into districts like Nagapattinam, Cudd-alore, Ramanathapuram, Pudukkottai and Tiruvarur districts. Nagapattinam district bore the major brunt of the storm.
‘Gaja’, played hide and seek for over a week and finally struck with winds speeds touching 110 kmph, as earlier warned by the Indian Meteorological Department and Regional Meteorological Centre, which were closely monitoring the situation throughout the day. Both agencies kept updating revenue officials about ‘Gaja’ trail.
Revenue officials who have had kept their eyes peeled over the stormy development, had quickly evacuated around 81,000 people to safety across the delta districts. The storm did not spare livestock, as a huge numbers of cattle were killed across these districts.
The IMD, in its bulletin, said that the cyclone made landfall between 12.30 am and 2.30 am, after which it trundled on its way westwards, and is slowly poised to weaken.
Further, districts like Pudukkottai, Tiruchy and Ramanathapuram had on Thursday and Friday mornings, received mild rain.
LED TV, coconut water and more: Inspection reveals Unitech directors ‘enjoying’ Tihar jail
New Delhi: LED TV, coconut water, crates of mineral water, badminton rackets and household items were among the prohibited things found in the prison cell of Unitech MD Sanjay Chandra and his brother Ajay, lodged in Tihar Jail for allegedly cheating home buyers.
This was communicated to the Delhi High Court by Additional Sessions Judge Ramesh Kumar, who carried out inspection on September 4 following complaints from other inmates that Chandra brothers and others jailed for white collar crimes were enjoying “luxurious lifestyle”.
He said in a report that the circumstances indicated “corruption” and “grave misuse of power” on the part of DG Prisons and Tihar Jail officials.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao on Friday issued notice to the AAP government, Director General (DG) Prisons and senior officials of Tihar Jail seeking their stand on the matter by February 1, 2019.
In the report, Kumar-II has recommended that an FIR be registered against DG Prisons and officials of Tihar Jail as such activities also pose an “extra burden on the public exchequer”.
He has said that apart from household amenities, including mattresses, mustard oil, foot-mats and stools, in their cell, the brothers also enjoyed a separate “office” room having a computer with internet, a printer as well as eatables and Aquafina mineral water.
On the brothers’ claim that they had bought the Aquafina mineral water from the jail canteen, the judicial officer found that only Bisleri was sold there.
Apart from that, the steel nets in the barracks housing the Chandra brothers were covered with blankets and boards “to avoid smell or outer air” from going into their cell, the report said.
It also said that such facilities cannot be provided to any inmate without the “involvement” and “knowledge” of the DG Prisons and other officials of Tihar Jail and proved as “positive” the complaint made by 25 inmates of Tihar Jail in their letter.
The report also indicates that the jail officials had told the ASJ that the letter was written by the inmates to pressurise them into providing extra facilities to the other prisoners which was not permissible under the jail manual.
The report also said that some of the complainant inmates were shifted to Mandoli Jail after they had sent the letter.
The High Court took suo motu cognisance of the report and the letter written by the inmates and turned it into a public interest litigation.
The inmates in their letter had claimed that while those arrested for financial crimes, like the Chandra brothers, were “enjoying an extra luxurious life in Tihar Jail” with a “separate VIP ward” for them, other prisoners were allegedly not getting sufficient food, drinking water, fruits and other necessities, including medical treatment.
However, those arrested for white collar crimes were getting specialised medical treatment for even minor ailments, had access to smart phones, could regularly communicate and meet with family members without hindrance, have home cooked meals, watch TV, play badminton and enjoyed a “luxurious life”, the letter said.
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