DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Quezon City Police seized the body of murdered Anakpawis national chairperson Randall Echanis from his grieving family on Monday evening August 10 and said they need to get a DNA test to prove the identity of the victim.
The move triggered condemnation from the family and lawyer of the peace talks for disrespecting the dead.
Echanis was killed along with a neighbor by unidentified suspects who barged in his rented apartment in Novaliches, Quezon City in the wee hours of August 10.
Police who arrived at the scene claimed the body was that of a Manuel Santiago because of an identification card recovered from the room. But Echanis’ wife Erlinda had already identified her husband, which she saw bore multiple stab wounds.
But when Echanis’ family brought his body to St. Peter’s Funeral Homes in Quezon City that Monday afternoon, QCPD elements arrived that night and forcibly took the body and transferred him to another funeral parlor in La Loma, Quezon City.
Police said there is no release order yet for the body, and they will conduct a fingerprint or DNA test to prove that the body is really Echanis.
A paralegal, Pao Colabores, who pleaded for this police action to stop, was arrested police and brought to Camp Karingal for “obstruction of justice”.
“This adds insult to our injury. It is both inhuman and unjust for the remains of my husband to be held under police custody and deprive us of having proper and private mourning,” Echanis’ wife, Erlinda, said in a statement.
“Why is my husband’s cadaver under investigation in the first place? It should be the perpetrators that should be hunted down and persecuted, not the lifeless body of my husband!” Echanis said.
Human rights lawyer and legal consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Atty. Edre Olalia said that “concluding instantly and accepting publicly that one of the dead bodies is a certain Manuel Santiago based solely on an ID that was allegedly found in the crime scene is either naïveté, laziness or plain incompetence.”
Echanis, 72, was a peace consultant for the NDFP and was a member of the working committee on the draft for socio-economic reforms. The talks were scuttled in 2017.
“We hope there is no attempt to muddle, confuse, deflect, distract, or cover-up. Nor scoff at the memory of a humble and honorable peacemaker,” Olalia said.
Former Anakpawis representative Ariel Casilao lambasted the police’s handling of this situation as “handwashing”.
“Instead of going after the perpetrators, they fixate themselves to the families and a lifeless body attempting to cover-up the crime. This strengthens our suspicion that the state forces were really behind Echanis’ murder,” Casilao said.(davaotoday.com)