Assassinated Filipino activist Echanis’ widow demands release of his body

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Widow Erlinda Echanis demands the release of the body of her husband, assassinated  peace activist Randall “Randy” Echanis. Video: Rappler

By Rambo Talabong in Manila

After her repeated urgings were unheeded, Erlinda Echanis formally has formally demanded that Pink Petals Memorial Homes release the body of her husband, assassinated Anakpawis chair Randall “Randy” Echanis.

“The wife of Ka Randy, his family and friends have positively identified his lifeless body. They claimed it from your funeral parlor and transferred to another of their choice,” said the demand letter, which was written by the Echanis family’s lawyer, Luchi Perez.

“That is their right. The PNP [Philippine National Police] has no right to interfere with such right.”

READ MORE: Global rights group condemns state murder of Filipino peace consultant

Aside from the release of the body of Randy Echanis, a 71-year-old activist and peace advocate, the family demanded that the funeral home “not do anything to his body or release it to the police or anyone else”, or Pink Petals management would face criminal and civil complaints.

The letter cited Article 306 of the Civil Code, which said that the right and duty for arranging the funeral for a person must follow the order established for support.

Under the Family Code, the order shall first come from the spouse.

When Anakpawis announced the killing of Echanis on Monday, August 10, the Quezon City Police District could not confirm it.

Police only knew of ‘stabbing incident’
The police said they only knew of a stabbing incident that led to the death of two people in Novaliches, the same area where Echanis lived.

The QCPD identified those stabbed dead as Manuel Santiago and Louie Tagapia.

On Monday afternoon, Echanis’ wife and lawyers identified Manuel Santiago to be Echanis and then brought his body to a St Peter’s funeral home in Quezon City.

In the evening, QCPD policemen “forcibly took” the body and brought it to the Pink Petals funeral home, in La Loma, Quezon City.

The QCPD wants either a fingerprint or a DNA test to establish the body’s identity.

Meanwhile, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines has protested in the very strongest terms over the murder of Randall Echanis. Its statement published online says:

‘Crime of state terrorism’
“In a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, ICHRP reports the crime of state terrorism in the killing of veteran activist and peace consultant Echanis.

“At about 1.20am Manila time, on August 10, 2020, five men were seen leaving the Echanis’ rented home in Novaliches, Quezon City. Inside the bodies of Echanis and an unnamed neighbour were found, with stab and gunshot wounds. Echanis was at home receiving medical attention.

“‘This murder is almost certainly a calibrated operation of the Duterte counter-insurgency programme, Oplan Kapanatagan. It is designed to destroy any dialogue that may resolve the five-decade long armed conflict in the Philippines, and instead pursue all out political violence against civilians,’ says ICHRP chairperson Peter Murphy in a letter to the UN High Commissioner.

“Echanis was a peace consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, a member of the 2016-17 Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms in the formal peace talks sponsored by the Royal Norwegian Government.

“He advocated for the mass of poor peasant farmers, for he was the deputy secretary-general of the Peasant Movement of the Philippines (KMP) and chairperson of the Anakpawis Party-List, a political party for peasants, fisherfolk and workers.

“On the same day, Erlinda Echanis, wife of the slain peace consultant, reported that police officers forcibly took the body of her husband which is now being guarded by state authorities.

“‘I have positively identified his lifeless body which bore torture marks, multiple stab and gunshot wounds,’ says Echanis.

UN plea for justice
“ICHRP urged the UN High Commissioner’s office and the United Nations Security Council to lead international condemnation of the murder of Echanis, and to urge the Philippines government to bring the perpetrators to justice. In the same letter, it also appeals to the government to abandon its war on all political opposition, and instead to release all political prisoners and resume the stalled peace talks.

“‘We call on all member states of the UN Human Rights Council to be seized of the seriousness of the human rights situation in the Philippines and to adopt all the recommendations in your June 30 report on the human rights situation in the Philippines,’ says ICHRP.

“Lastly, Murphy addresses the international community, calling on it ‘to unequivocally condemn the state killing of Echanis’.

Randy Echanis
Veteran Filipino peace and peasant farmer activist Randy Echanis … shot and stabbed in a Quezon City assassination on Monday. Image: Rappler
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