Amanda Lacaba Echanis is being harassed by the police even in detention, the lawyer of the playwright and peasant women organizer said.
Atty. Luz Perez, counsel of detained AMIHAN organizer Echanis, reminded the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to refrain from harassing her client who is detained at Camp Melchor Adduru in Tuguegarao City.
“May we remind the CIDG Region 2 to refrain from ‘interviewing or attempting to interview’ our client,” Perez said in a statement.
“The case is now pending before the court. Hands off Amanda!” Perez added, revealing the police intelligence agents’ attempts to interrogate the political detainee.
“Amanda remains innocent until proven guilty. Her arrest was illegal and baseless as shown in the manner and course of serving the warrant and carrying out of the search,” Perez explained.
The police arrested Echanis and her month-old son in Barangay Carupian in Baggao town before dawn of December 2. The police alleged that the young mother had an old M16 assault rifle, two hand grenades and assorted ammunition with her when arrested.
Echanis, however, denied ownership of the guns and explosives.
“Nashock ako, mads! Dami ko daw baril at granada? Hahahaha! Saan ko naman kukunin mga iyon, e bitbit ko lang naman si baby Randall Eman at mga relief goods,” Echanis told supporters in a phone call.
(I was shocked, friend. Do I that many guns and grenades? Hahaha! Where will I get those when I had been only been carrying Randall Eman and relief goods?)
About a hundred police operatives raided Echanis’ house while another hundred surrounded and forcibly entered the house of Danggayan ti Mannalon ti Cagayan Valley (Danggayan) chairperson Isabelo Adviento nearby before dawn of Wednesday.
Witnesses said the police also put guns and explosives inside Adviento’s house during the raid. Adviento was not present during the raid.
Dozens of activists arrested by the police had been similarly charged by the police.
Perez said the police should respect the rights of the young mother and her infant, adding that Echanis must be assisted by her counsel at all times during interrogation.
“Amanda is still recovering from childbirth and any undue stress caused by her captors might affect her and the baby’s health,” Perez said.
Echanis’ lawyers also appealed Friday that her case be raffled for the issuance of a commitment order to facilitate her transfer to a real jail facility as the CIDG has no facilities for breastfeeding.
Echanis’ supporters also claim that the search of her house came before the warrant, making the arrest highly irregular and questionable.
“There was first an invalid, illegal search that was conducted by the military before the supposed legal search by the CIDG,” Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chairperson Danilo Ramos said.
Broad calls for release
Meanwhile, Echanis’ former classmates, friends and fellow artists have organized the Free Amanda Echanis Network.
University of the Philippines (UP) students, faculty, alumni, and other community members started an online petition calling for Echanis and her baby’s immediate release and the junking of the charges.
Read the full petition here – https://www.change.org/p/duterte-administration-up-community-calls-for-release-of-amanda-echanis
Echanis was a UP College of Arts and Letters student and a graduate of the Philippine High School for the Arts in Makiling.
She was also among the youngest Filipino writers whose full-length play, Nanay Mameng (2016), had been staged.
Senators Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros and Franklin Drilon also called for Echanis’ release on humanitarian grounds.
The Commission on Human Rights for its part reminded concerned authorities to give primordial consideration to the welfare of Echanis’ infant “as required by the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders or the Bangkok Rules.”
Echanis was the daughter of National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Randall Echanis who was brutally murdered last August.
She was also the niece of famed poet Emmanuel Lacaba who was martyred during Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law in 1976.
She named her 21-day old son Randall Emmanuel. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)