National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said the brutal murder of peace consultant and veteran agrarian reform activist Randall Echanis may only be the handiwork of “butchers in authority.”
In a statement, Sison presented five “evidence” why a “gang of butchers” in the Rodrigo Duterte government are responsible for Echanis’ murder:
1. The same van used to surveil Ka Randy for one month was used to bring the murder team to kill him.
2. There were at least eight members of the murder team and they could move freely at night and after midnight to carry out their kill mission under conditions of strict lockdown.
3. On the night before the post-midnight murder, they shut off the street light and the CCTV (closed circuit television).
4. They openly used a ladder to access the second floor where Ka Randy (Echanis) was.
5. They took time to torture and knife Ka Randy and allowed sounds of torture to call the attention of neighbors until they shot him to death.
Echanis’ neighbors reported hearing someone “like being tortured” for at least an hour.
They also told ABS-CBN that it took several hours for members of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) to arrive at the scene.
Echanis, 72, was murdered around midnight August 10 in his rented apartment, along with neighbor Louie Tagapia, 48, in Novaliches, Quezon City.
“Only butchers in authority can do all the above and get away with murder,” Sison said.
Bizarre turn of events
Echanis’ murder became even more controversial after the QCPD forcibly took away his remains from his family and colleagues at a funeral parlor Monday afternoon and held it for nearly three days “pending verification” of the cadaver’s real identity.
The local police said they found an identification card at the crime scene bearing the photo of Echanis but with the name Manuel Santiago.
The victim’s family, colleagues and lawyers protested, saying they have already identified the cadaver as Echanis and there was no need for the police to conduct verification procedures.
The lawyers added that Echanis was a publicly-known figure that even President Duterte may be able to identify, having previously met him on several occasions.
The remains were taken to Pink Petals Funeral Parlor in La Loma across Quezon City and farthest away from the crime scene.
The QCPD even arrested Anakpawis paralegal Paolo Colabres for allegedly obstructing the police investigation when they sought that Echanis’ remains be returned to his family.
Colabres has been imprisoned at QCPD’s main headquarters at Camp Karingal since.
An attempt by a Roman Catholic priest to celebrate Mass in front of the funeral parlor was also prevented by the police.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines also released an alert after a police officer, identified on his nameplate as a certain Ilao, harassed journalists covering developments at La Loma and threatened to arrest them on alleged violations of “social distancing” procedures.
A supplied photo shows the journalists were observing social distancing and were wearing masks.
NDFP Negotiating Panel legal consultant Edre Olalia said that the QCPD was either being naïve, lazy or plain incompetent on insisting on the identity of a victim based solely on an ID reportedly found in the crime scene.
“Surely the police ‘intelligence’ had a cache of pictures of him [Echanis] with all the interest on his person and activities and with all the funds for police trainings and seminars on police investigation and ‘intelligence,’” Olalia said.
“One look at his bloodied and bruised face leaves no room for any doubt, speculation, ambivalence or paucity of vision. Despite the curious divergence of the name and the photo in the ID,” he added.
Anakpawis also refuted claims by the QCPD that there was no forced entry at the crime scene.
“The police’s claim that Echanis voluntarily opened his door or knew his killers, i[s] a brazen attempt for a cover-up, but the crime scene says otherwise,” Ariel Casilao, former Anakpawis Representative said in a statement .
The group said it immediately dispatched team to look into the crime scene and found broken door knob and strike plate, indicating a brute force entry.
“Contrary to police claim, the perpetrators forced their entry into Echanis’ rented apartment. It was a clear murder and we highly believe state forces were behind it following their hostaging of his remains and twisted stories,” Casilao said.
Echanis’ remains was eventually given back to his family after the QCPD admitted the cadaver was of Echanis based on fingerprints taken from it.
Echanis is the third NDFP peace consultant brutally killed after its peace negotiations with the government has been cancelled by Duterte in June 2017.
In January 2019, Randy Malayao was killed in Nueva Vizcaya while Julius Giron, a high-ranking Communist Party of the Philippines leader, was killed in Baguio City last March.
Several other NDFP peace consultants have been arrested and are in jail. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)