Karapatan: NDFP peace consultants targets of Duterte’s bloodhounds

The brutal and grisly murders of peace consultant Randall Echanis and Louie Tagapia, a neighbor who just happened to be around, are recent indications of the surely-to-be-denied shoot-to-kill and take-no-prisoner policy of the Duterte government. Operation Tokhang has certainly gone beyond supposed drug users.

From initial reports, Randy Echanis suffered what appeared to be two gunshots on the head, 12 stab wounds and 21 what looked like icepick punctures in different parts of his body. His bloodied face showed signs of his possibly having been beaten up, too. Tagapia, a co-resident of the apartment with no connection to Ka Randy, reportedly had his hands tied and his head bashed.

Contradicting Pres. Duterte’s posturing of sincerely working for peace, there have been relentless and worsening attacks on the peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and other activists and human rights defenders. After he unilaterally cancelled the peace talks, three NDFP political consultants have been killed: Randy Malayao while asleep on a bus on his way home to Isabela; Julius Giron, while on medical leave in Baguio City, his doctor was also killed; and Randy Echanis.

Seven NDFP peace consultants languish in prison on trumped-up charges: Rey Claro Casambre, Ferdinand Castillo, former priest Frank Fernandez, Renante Gamara, Vicente Ladlad, Adelberto Silva, and Esterlita Suaybaguio. Three NDFP staff members are also in detention.

If the militarists of the Duterte government think that the brutality of what was done to Randy Echanis will shock and sow fear, panic and terror among the NDFP peace panel and consultants, peace advocates, activists, human rights defenders and various critics of the Duterte regime, they got another thing coming. The government henchmen have aroused instead indignation, anger, and the will to resist, along with a growing cross section of society, an oppressive and abusive regime.

Even the ordinary individual is outraged because of what happened to the neighbor Tagapia who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time; and made worse by the police snatching Ka Randy Echanis’s body away from his family, arresting a paralegal of the family and accusing their lawyer of eluding arrest when she had been very visible and had kept close to the family the whole time.

Supposed peacemaker Duterte has wasted what have been painstakingly gained in the peace negotiations with the NDFP. What was on the table for the GRP and NDFP Peace Panel before Duterte last turned his back on the peace talks was a draft Interim Peace Agreement which would contain points of unities in the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) pertaining to agrarian reform and rural development (ARRD) and national industrialization and economic development (NIED) - for which Ka Randy worked so hard - amnesty proclamation, and coordinated unilateral ceasefire. They are now hanging in the air instead of benefitting the people.

We call on the Duterte government to get its act together and effectively address Covid 19. Go back to the peace talks with the NDFP towards an interim peace agreement. That way, the NDFP forces can freely optimize their current efforts at fighting the virus instead of making them a scapegoat of the government’s inutility, perpetually vilifying them as terrorists who they are not. They will surely be of great help in our times of great need.

Call off your bloodhounds! Listen to the people, they know better than you and your generals who think of themselves as experts!

Elisa Tita Lubi
Karapatan Chairperson