Philippine Peasant Movement's Deputy Secretary General for External Affairs arrested in Bago City, Negros Occide(Initial Update)

At around 2:00 in the afternoon of 28 January 2008, around 30 armed elements of the PNP-PMG in plainclothes and ski masks surrounded the Builders Training Center where the Unyon ng Manggagawang Agrikultura (UMA) or the Agricultural Workers Union and the Negros Federation of Sugar Workers (NSFW) were holding a Conference for Genuine Agrarian Reform. When the participants saw the armed men, they closed the door and barred them from entering.

Two of the policemen were forced to remove their masks and negotiated with the conference participants. They introduced themselves as Police Inspectors Dinsing and Dejucos and told the participants that they were there only to serve the warrant of arrest of Mr. Randall "Ka Randy" Echanis.

The said warrant was issued by Judge Ephraim Abando of the Regional Trial Court of Hilongos, Leyte with a charge of 15 counts of multiple murder. The same warrant was used by the Department of Justice in arresting Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo in 2007. The negotiation lasted until past 5:00 in the afternoon. Mr. Echanis, in consultation with a lawyer, decided to go with the policemen.

The almost 70 people attending the conference accompanied Mr. Echanis to the Bago City Jail. Mr. Echanis was interrogated until 11:00 in the evening. At past 11:00 PM, the policemen put him inside a cell. The following day, at around 6:00 AM of January 29, they let him out of the cell again but remained inside the jail premises. At past 2:00 in the afternoon, the policemen told Mr. Echanis that they were going to move him out of the jail to allegedly present him to the media for a press conference at 3:00 PM at the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (NOPPO).

But Randy's colleagues were surprised when he was forcibly made to board a Huey helicopter and the police prevented them from accompanying him. Sister Pat Fox of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines insisted to board the helicopter with Mr. Echanis. Instead of going to the NOPPO, the police flew him to Mactan Airport in Cebu, and once there, they ordered Sister Pat to disembark because they were leaving her in Cebu. But she vehemently insisted to accompany Mr. Echanis to wherever the police were taking him.

From Cebu, they were taken to the Hilongos, Leyte District Hospital because it was the only place where there is a helipad. From there, Mr. Echanis was taken to the Regional Trial Court of Hilongos to the sala of Judge Ephraim Abando for the hearing of the Multiple Murder case. They arrived there at around 5:00 PM and by 5:30 PM, the hearing was over. Judge Abando ordered the arresting officers to bring Mr. Echanis to the Leyte Provincial Jail in Palo but the military and police said that it was risky to transport the victim and they insisted to keep him in Hilongos. But at 11:00 in the evening, they changed their minds and proceeded to bring Mr. Echanis to the Leyte Provincial Jail in Palo. A convoy consisting of four 6x6 army trucks, a police car and an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) accompanied the ambulance carrying Mr. Randall Echanis and Sister Pat.

The travel lasted for three and a half hours. They arrived in Palo at 2:30 in the morning of 30 January.

Mr. Randall Echanis was elected member of the national council of the First Quarter Storm Movement in its first Congress. Since 2002, he has also helped in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Committee for Social and Economic Reforms. As KMP Deputy Secretary General for External Affairs, Mr. Echanis represented KMP in various international farmer assemblies and conferences.