Karapatan expresses cynicism on DOJ investigation on Echanis’ killing, calls for independent investigation led by the CHR

Human rights alliance Karapatan today expressed cynicism on Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s statement on an investigating team from the department’s task force on Administrative Order No. 35 to probe the killing of elderly peasant leader and peace consultant Randall “Randy” Echanis. 

“Hundreds of activists have already been killed under this fascist regime and the DOJ’s task force has failed to bring any of them to justice and hold their perpetrators accountable. The administration said that a similar investigating team on the killing of peace consultant Randy Malayao was also created then, but to date there has been no substantial development on Malayao’s case. 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,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

Karapatan called for an independent investigation, primarily by the Commission on Human Rights, into Echanis’ killing after personnel of the La Loma Police Station of the Quezon City Police District snatched away his remains from his wife, Erlinda Echanis, and arbitrarily arrested paralegal Paolo Corables, who had been keeping track of the slain activist’s remains.

According to reports, the immediate cause of Echanis’ death were gunshot wounds in the left parietal area. His wife, Erlinda, also “positively identified his lifeless body which bore torture marks, multiple stab and gunshot wounds” on the morning of August 10 — despite the police claiming that the body belonged to a certain “Manuel Santiago,” whose identification card was supposedly recovered by the police from the crime scene. 

After Echanis’ wife Erlinda recovered his remains of her husband and brought it to St. Peter’s Memorial Chapel in Quezon Ave., policemen from the La Loma Police Station persistently harassed her and more than 10 policemen forcibly took the cadaver around 11:20 p.m. on August 10, and brought it to Pink Petal Funeral Homes along A. Bonifacio Ave., where Corables was arrested without warrant and taken into custody by the police. Corables has undergone inquest for the absurd obstruction of justice complaint.

The police also demanded a DNA test to supposedly confirm whether it is indeed Echanis who was brutally stabbed and shot to death in the early morning of August 10, while also threatening to arrest three peasant rights advocates who have also been keeping track of the slain activist’s remains. Reports of the Philippine National Police’s cross matching tests released today, August 12, have already indicated a positive match that “Manuel Santiago” and Echanis are the same person.

The Karapatan officer said that “the family of Ka Randy is going through this very difficult time, learning that he was tortured and killed in the most brutal way possible, but the police continue to deny it was him — even going as far as cruelly snatching him and a paralegal — even after his remains were already positively identified by his own wife, family, and friends. Demanding a DNA test from his already bereaved family is insulting, absurd, and totally inhumane! How low could the police even want to go in desecrating Ka Randy’s remains and tormenting his family?”

“The police are degrading Ka Randy and his family and harassing the people helping them get back his body. Pinaslang na nga siya sa pinaka-brutal na paraan, tapos ngayon, gusto pa nilang babuyin ‘yung bangkay niya? Pati ba naman bangkay, ayaw nilang patahimikin. We demand that the police rightfully give back Ka Randy’s remains to his wife and family and to release Paolo Corables! We call for an independent investigation over Ka Randy’s cold-blooded murder. We will not stop in asserting our calls until justice is served, and the perpetrators of this unpardonable act are held accountable!”, Palabay ended.