CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Human rights groups condemn the killing of peasant leader and peace consultant Randall Echanis, as they call for an independent probe on his murder.
Amnesty International Philippines released its statement on Monday, hours after Echanis was found murdered in his apartment, stabbed and shot by unknown assailants.
“Killings continue unabated even in the midst of a deadly pandemic. Authorities should investigate the cold-blooded murder of Randall ‘Randy’ Echanis, and those responsible must be brought to justice,” said Butch Olano, Amnesty International Philippines director.
Olano lamented how political killings have intensified in this administration.
“His death is yet another addition to the intensifying attacks against political activists in the country. Public safety and respect for human life and human rights have been cast aside since the beginning of this administration. This legacy of death must end now,” Olano said.
The human rights group Karapatan also called the murder of Echanis as “despicable and shameless”.
Elisa Tita Lubi, chairperson of Karapatan said Echanis’ murder means peace advocates and consultants are not spared.
“How can we achieve genuine and comprehensive social and economic reforms, as well as just and lasting peace, if advocates like Randy Echanis are being vilified, threatened, and traitorously silenced?” Lubi said.
“With alarm and anxiety but also with a strong commitment to exact justice and accountability, we worry about the other NDFP peace consultants and leaders of the democratic movement, what with the emerging ‘shoot-to-kill and take-no-prisoner’ orientation of state security forces whom Duterte lovingly refers to as ‘his soldiers’,” she added.
Echanis was among the hundreds of individuals that the Department of Justice petitioned to the court to be declared as “terrorists” in 2018. His name and other rights defenders were eventually removed from the list that initially included then UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday earlier said that a special investigating team under the Administrative Order (AO) 35 task force will be formed to look into Echanis’ killing.
In reaction, Anakpawis said that the DOJ can proceed with their own probe but they don’t put high hopes that “its mechanisms would be impartial and have significant results that would reveal the perpetrators and hold them accountable.”
Instead, they will seek independent investigation from other parties such as the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), non-governmental groups, and international bodies.
“The DOJ’s investigation, being their mandate, however, should ensure fair and impartial proceedings, otherwise, it would be tokenistic efforts giving false hopes to the family and colleagues of the murdered activist and peace consultant,” Anakpawis said in a statement.
Karapatan also casts doubt on the DOJ probe as it cites the previous investigation where the agency failed to bring perpetrators to justice, including the case on the murder of another peace consultant Randy Malayao in January 2019.
They also pointed out how the Quezon City Police maneuvered in the past days to keep Echanis’ body away from the family and harassed paralegals with arrest.
“How can there be trust with this task force when the police are already blatantly pulling all the cruel and wicked maneuvers to obstruct justice for Ka Randy Echanis? This is becoming more and more like a cold-blooded State-sponsored murder being covered up by the police,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.
CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia, on Tuesday, said that the CHR has already launched an investigation, however, it was not clear if it covers Echanis’ killing or the police officers forcibly taking his remains from the family.
“All freedom-loving Filipinos and human rights defenders should not allow such ruthless acts to occur with impunity,” Lubi said. (davaotoday.com)