#NotSafeAtHome? Calls for justice for slain peasant leader Randy Echanis

August 13, 2020 - 11:28 AM
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Erlinda Echinas, wife of slain activist Randall Echinas (The STAR/Michael Varcas)

Calls for justice were launched online for slain activist leader Randall “Ka Randy” Echanis and another activist following reports of their deaths and Echanis’ cadaver being taken by the local police.

Echanis, Anakpawis chairperson and consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and another man named Louie Tagapia were reportedly tortured and killed in an apartment in Novaliches in Quezon City on August 10.

Near midnight of the same day, Echanis’ wife, Erlinda also reported that members of the La Loma Police forcefully took the remains of her late husband at the St. Peter Chapels along Quezon Avenue.

In her statement that Anakpawis shared on social media, Erlinda claimed that more than 10 policemen from La Loma Police-QCPD “snatched” the body after she positively identified the victim as her husband.

Moreover, the party-list also said that a member of the paralegal team, identified as Pao Colabres, was also arrested by the police while he was guarding the body.

Anakpawis added that Colabres was brought to PNP Station 1 or Camp Karingal in Quezon City to be charged with “obstruction of justice.”

The alleged illegal arrest was also caught on video and shared by different news outlets on social media.

The next day, on August 12, Anakpawis shared in a series of tweets that police officers attempted to stop a Mass offered for Echinas over alleged quarantine violations.

The attendees of the event, however, were following minimum health protocols of wearing masks and physical distancing.

They were later allowed to hold a solidarity prayer and candle offering.

Is it not safe at home in the Philippines?

The series of tragic incidents that happened to Echanis and Tagapia and their families were immediately condemned on social media, noting that they were killed inside a place of residence where it was supposed to be safe from the novel coronavirus.

“BERDUGO. TUTA NG ESTADO,” writer Charisse Castaño said.

“Ang gobyernong ito ay berdugo, pumapatay. Papatayin na lang ba tayo nang di lalaban?” blogger Mong Palatino said.

Other groups and some concerned Filipinos used the hashtag #NotSafeAtHome on social media to contradict the “stay-at-home” worldwide preventive protocol against the virus which causes COVID-19.

They noted that activists like Echanis are not safe at home in the Philippines under the Duterte administration.

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“The world is saying #StayAtHome but the people in the Philippines are #notsafeathome. Injustice killings of activists inside their homes are still happening,” one Twitter user said.

Anakpawis and other progressive groups, meanwhile, rallied at the Commission on Human Rights amid the implementation of the modified enhanced community quarantine to call for justice for the slain victims on August 11.

Local human rights organization Karapatan and its international counterpart the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines likewise denounced the killings and called for independent probes instead of relying on the Department of Justice.

Karapatan sought the help of the CHR and the ICHRP wrote a letter to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to act on this matter.

Responses of the Palace and the QCPD

In an interview with ANC’s “Matters of Fact” on August 11, Police Lt. Johanna Sazon, QCPD Public Information Office chief said that the slain victim was a certain Manuel Santiago, contrary to the statement of Erlinda.

Sazon said this was based on the identification card they recovered on the scene and on the statement of the landlady of the apartment where the incident took place.

The police officer also sought help from the public to identify if he really was Echanis despite positive identification from the latter’s own family.

In another report, Anakpawis’ legal counsel Luchi Perez said that Santiago and Echanis referred to only one person.

“Manuel is Randall Echanis,” Perez said via a text message.

Malacañang, meanwhile, took their hands off the matter and will just wait for the results of the investigation.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, however, tagged Echanis as a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines.  

“Antayin po natin ang imbestigasyon. ‘Wag po masyadong mabilis manisi sa gobyerno dahil dati naman po, ang CPP-NPA, sila mismo ang nagpatayan,” Roque said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

Echanis was renowned for his efforts in agrarian reform and helping craft the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB).

He was the 4th NDF political consultant to be killed.