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Joma: Only ‘butchers in authority’ may have killed Echanis

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.

A redemptorist priest being prevented to celebrate Mass for Echanis (Altermidya photo)

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.

Anakpawis photos
Anakpawis photos

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)

Rights activist frustrates new PNP modus in serving arrest warrants

A Philippine National Police (PNP) operative dressed and presented himself to be a delivery boy in a failed attempt to arrest Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay Wednesday, June 7.

Police Master Sergeant (SPOI) Joelon de Tomas Rafael was dressed as an LBC courier when he arrived at Karapatan’s office in Quezon City and introduced himself as an employee of the delivery company.

“I was served a warrant of arrest this afternoon by a guy who introduced himself as an LBC courier. He was wearing the uniform/t-shirt and had an ID. Is this the usual procedure now?” Palabay wrote in a Facebook post.

Palabay said she was surprised when Rafael introduced himself as an LBC courier when he served the arrest warrant. 

She added that another person in civilian clothes accompanying Rafael introduced himself as a police officer from the Quezon City Police District’s headquarters in nearby Camp Karingal. 

Palabay told Kodao that the undercover officer was Police Chief Master Sergeant (SPO3) Luisito Johnson Ubias

“I asked for their IDs. The guy in plainclothes easily gave his and said, after I badgered the ‘LBC guy’ for his ID, that the LBC guy is also a cop,” Palabay revealed.

The prominent human rights activist said she reminded the two police officers that the manner they were serving the arrest warrant violated the PNP’s manual on such operations.

“[W]hen you’re serving warrants of arrests, you should introduce yourself as policemen/arresting officers. You should be in uniform. In fact, you should have read to me my Miranda rights,” Palabay told Ubias and Rafael. 

Rafael also lied when asked for his identification card, saying he left it in the car. He eventually took it from his pocket when pressed, Palabay said.

The officers tried to justify their ruse by saying they would not be able to arrest respondents if they stick to legal procedures, she added. 

Ubias and Rafael apologized and left after their identification cards and documents were photocopied, Palabay said. 

Perjury complaint by Esperon

Palabay said the arrest warrant stemmed from a perjury case filed by national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. in retaliation for the Writ of Amparo and Habeas Data petition Karapatan, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Gabriela filed with the Supreme Court in May 2019.

Esperon was among the respondents named in the petition of having threatened and red-baited officers and members of the three organizations.

“This (the perjury case) was initially dismissed by a Quezon City prosecutor, and then revived and filed in court by another prosecutor, after Esperon’s motion for reconsideration,” Palabay explained.

Palabay said she showed Ubias and Rafael the recall order for the arrest warrant against her.

The recall order of Palabay’s arrest warrant.

“They said they only received the arrest warrant yesterday and they haven’t received the recall order (issued on April 29, 2020! More than two months ago!),” Palabay said, adding she has posted bail and presented myself to an executive judge via online channels to secure the recall of the arrest warrant against her.

‘Does LBC know?’

In a Facebook post, Karapatan lawyer Ma. Sol Taule asked if the courier company knows its identity is being used by the PNP for undercover operations.

 “Alam ba ng LBC Express Inc na ginagamit niyo ang pangalan ng kompanya nila para mang-harass ng mga tao?” Taule asked. (Does LBC Express Inc. know that you [PNP] use their company to harass people?)

At ano naman kaya ang susunod niyong costume? Grab, Food Panda, Lala Move Delivery?” she asked, referring to other courier service companies in the country. (What costume would you be using next?)

Taule also asked the police if donning LBC uniforms is part of Rule 6.1 of the PNP’s operations manual.

The manual orders that arrest, search and seizure, checkpoint, roadblocks, demolition and civil disturbance management operations shall be conducted with a marked police vehicle, led by a Police Commissioned Officer (PCO), and with personnel in prescribed police uniform or attire.

Ubias and Rafael are non-commissioned officers. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Police harass Sitio San Roque community kitchens

Residents of Sitio San Roque cannot seem to catch a break after the police harassed the community kitchen they have been operating for three days.

In an urgent alert, the group Save San Roque said about 15 Quezon City Police District officers arrived at two areas in their community to tear down placards asking the government for more help.

“Despite the peaceful volunteerism at our community kitchen, about 15 police officers descended upon us to tear down our placards asking for help,” the group said on its Facebook page.

QCPD officers descend on Sitio San Roque anew to tear down placards asking government for more help. (Save San Roque photo)

Save San Roque said the police arrived at around 10 o’clock in the morning and left after an hour.

The police action was upon the directive of the QCPD Station 2 commander, the group said.

The Philippine National Police-National Capital Region Command website identifies Lt. Colonel Rodrigo Soriano as Station 2 commander.

Save San Roque had been operating community kitchens after the community started receiving relief donations from private individuals following the arrest of 21 residents accused by the police and government officials, including President Rodrigo Duterte, of holding a rally last April 1.

It turned out that the residents only massed up along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue upon hearing that local and national government officials were about to hand out relief items.

Despite Quezon City mayor Joy Belmonte’s request to the QCPD not to press charges, the Department of Interior and Local Government announced it will push ahead in filing charges against those arrested.

QCPD officers tearing down placards asking government for more help. (Save San Roque photo)

In a surprise address later that evening, Duterte threatened to kill participants of protest actions in direct reference to those arrested.

The arrests and Duterte’s threats have resulted in an outpouring of help to the beleaguered residents, with private individuals offering to pay the bail for those arrested.

Groups have also started to give food packs to the residents, allowing Save San Roque and the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap to operate two community kitchens in the area.

The Sitio San Roque incident inspired #OustDuterteNow tweets on social media that trended for days since the incident. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP’s Vic Ladlad talks about their arrest last Thursday

“Paglabag sa mga provision ng Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) ang pag-aresto sa akin at pagkukulong. Ang provision ng JASIG sa safety and immunity ay perpetual.

“Planted, itinanim, ang mga firearm at explosives na, diumano, ay nakuha sa bahay na tinatirahan namin.  Nakita naming nang ipasok ng mga operatiba ng Quezon City Police District ang isang bag na naglalaman ng ‘baby’ M-16. Maikli ang bag na kinalalagyan nito at nakalabas ang kanyon at bahagi ng katawan ng riple.  Nakalagay sa isang mahaba pero narrow na case ang isang riple na ang rifle butt at makikita sa likuran ng case. Nakita rin ng isa sa amin na inilagay ng operatiba ng QCPD ang isang pistol.”