MANILA, Philippines — Rights group Karapatan is doubtful that a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into the killing of peasant leader Randall “Randy” Echanis would bear any result, preferring instead an independent probe by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay said on Wednesday that the DOH had handled hundreds of cases of activist killings, but they had not been given justice — which might also be the same case for Echanis, a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Echanis was found dead on Monday morning in his rented home in Quezon City. Controversies surrounded his death — from multiple identifications of his body to police officers seizing the body from his family.
“Hundreds of activists have already been killed under this fascist regime and the DOJ’s task force has failed to bring any of them to justice and hold their perpetrators accountable,” Palabay said in a statement.
“The administration said that a similar investigating team on the killing of peace consultant Randy Malayao was also created then, but to date there has been no substantial development on Malayao’s case,” she added=.
She was referring to another NDFP peace consultant who was shot inside a bus in Nueva Viscaya in 2019.
What Karapatan prefers, is a CHR-led investigation.
On Tuesday, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said the agency had started investigating the issue, but it was not clear whether the investigation would cover the whole case — the killing of Echanis or the mere act of police officers snatching the body.
“Karapatan called for an independent investigation, primarily by the Commission on Human Rights, into Echanis’ killing after personnel of the La Loma Police Station of the Quezon City Police District snatched away his remains from his wife, Erlinda Echanis, and arbitrarily arrested paralegal Paolo Corables, who had been keeping track of the slain activist’s remains,” Palabay said.
The possibility of the DOJ handling the probe came as the Free Legal Assistance Group, headed by human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, said that the National Bureau of Investigation, an agency under DOJ, should investigate the Echanis case and not the Philippine National Police (PNP).
On Tuesday, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra spoke about the issue, saying that PNP should explain why the body of Echanis was taken away from his relatives.
Just a few hours earlier, the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) confirmed that the dead body found in the Novaliches apartment was Echanis, and not a certain Manuel Santiago whom the police earlier identified, based on the identification cards bearing the victim’s photo.
QCPD chief Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo previously noted that Echanis identified himself as Manuel Santiago to the owner of the apartment.
“That means Randall Echanis and Manuel Santiago [are] one in the same person. It was proved that they are one and the same person,” Montejo said in Filipino.
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