Free Amanda Echanis and her baby, free all political prisoners!

Karapatan denounces the recent arrest of 32-year old Amanda Echanis, a woman peasant organizer of Amihan, a federation of women peasants, in Cagayan and the planting of evidence against her. Amanda was reportedly arrested in the course of the service of search warrants in Brgy. Carupian, Baggao, Cagayan at dawn on December 2, 2020 by elements of the Philippine National Police, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. She is presently detained at Camp Marcelo Adduro in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan.

Amanda was with her one-month old baby, when she was arrested. She is the daughter of slain peace consultant and Anakpawis chairperson Randall Echanis.

Similar search warrants were used in the raid in the house of peasant leader Isabelo Adviento of Danggayan, a chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Cagayan Valley at around the same time that house where Amanda was staying was raided. Adviento was not in his home at the time of the raid, but his wife was there, and she recounted how authorities forcibly entered the premises of their residence, forced all those in the house to go out and planted firearms and grenades in their living room. Richard Dagohoy of the Baggao Farmers Association was accosted and handcuffed during the said operations in Brgy. Carupian but was later let go by the authorities.

The Cagayan raids and the arrest of Amanda Echanis come amid the red-tagging spree and counterinsurgency operations by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict which resulted in the numerous cases of illegal or arbitrary arrests, detention, extrajudicial killings and many other rights violations. She is being wrongly accused as a “high ranking officer of the CPP-NPA.”

This modus operandi of State forces — the red-tagging of individuals and organizations and threats against them, the late night or dawn service of invalid and questionable search warrants based on made-up stories, tanim-ebidensya even on the most absurd circumstances, the filing of trumped up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and other non-bailable charges — have more patently and brazenly used to justify the criminalization and unjust imprisonment of human rights defenders, community organizers, and activists of social causes under the Duterte administration, and moreso when the NTF-ELCAC was put into place through Executive Order #70 and the assumption of Debold Sinas into the PNP’s top posts.

Majority of the current number of political prisoners at 656 are facing trumped up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. At least 426 of the political prisoners were arrested during the Duterte administration.

Amanda’s case is also similar to that of nursing mothers and pregnant women community organizers and activists who were illegally or arbitrarily arrested, which include Reina Mae Nasino who gave birth while in detention and who recently lost her 3-month old baby.

Karapatan condemns this continuing inhumanity against the Echanis family - a family being persecuted from father Randall Echanis to Amanda Echanis - as we deplore the spate of illegal arrests and imprisonment of activists and political dissenters because of their beliefs, activism or advocacy work, and exercise of their basic rights to human rights defense.

We hold Sinas, the AFP and the NTF-ELCAC, led by Pres. Duterte, accountable for Amanda’s arrest. We demand that she be kept with her newborn son so she can breastfeed him and provide him with sustainable care. Amanda and her baby, as well as all political prisoners, including Reina Mae Nasino, sickly Ge-Ann Perez and Virginia Villamor, elderly peace consultants Rey Casambre, Vicente Ladlad, Frank Fernandez and Adelberto Silva, among others, should be released on humanitarian and just grounds.