Martial law-style killings resurface


    ‘His colleagues in the party-list group were emphatic in saying that he was unarmed and non-violent when he met his untimely death, and blamed it on state security forces.’

    DETAILS of Randall “Randy” Echanis’ death were reported by the news media yesterday, but significantly, they did not come from an official police report. The information came from his co-activists, former Anakpawis Congressman Ariel Casilao and the peasant organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). Lt. Johanna Sazon, chief of the Quezon City Police District public information office, confirmed the incident but told reporters yesterday that they have yet to release an official report pending approval by the QCPD chief, Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo.

    Echanis, 72, was sick and undergoing medical treatment in his house in Novaliches, Quezon City, and unarmed, “when police forces raided his house.” The information was from Casilao, the former Anakpawis party-list nominee, while Echanis was the national chairperson of the party-list.

    The group said Echanis “was stabbed by suspected state forces inside his rented place in the wee hours of the morning” on Monday.

    The death of Randall Echanis at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the rule of law sometimes gives way to the rule of health protocols, reminds us of the martial-law style killings of the Marcos dictatorship during the 1970s to the 1980s, although bullets and not knives or bayonets were used then. The victims, however, were the same group of progressive activists, leftist leaders and sometimes, members and officers of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the National Democratic Front, the New People’s Army, and their allied organizations.

    For decades, Echanis belonged to this group of men and women working for their own vision of social reforms and transformation, mostly in the field of agrarian reform and rural development. In fact, Echanis was also a farmer-leader, the deputy secretary-general of the KMP. In this capacity, he spearheaded nationwide campaigns for genuine agrarian reform including free land distribution to Filipinos farmers, and helped in the research work and drafting of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill which was repeatedly filed in the House of Representatives since its first filing in 2007.

    When he died, Echanis was consultant of the NDFP in the failed peace talks with the government, and was a member of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms. His colleagues in the party-list group were emphatic in saying that he was unarmed and non-violent when he met his untimely death, and blamed it on state security forces.

    Casilao said, “Our anger is beyond words. This is a culture of extrajudicial killings with impunity under the Duterte regime. This is a declaratory act that national leaders of legal-democratic movement are now targeted to be killed by the Duterte regime. The entire civil society, human rights advocates, and freedom fighters must totally denounce this criminal act.”

    KMP chair Rafael Mariano, meanwhile, said: “While the country is bearing the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, state-backed mercenaries and death squads remain on the loose and wreaking havoc on activists and freedom fighters.” Echanis is the third NDF consultant killed in questionable circumstances. Before him were Sotero Llamas in Albay in 2006, and Randy Malayao in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya in 2019.

    Do we recognize a pattern here or are Mariano and Casilao just seeing the false specter of state fascism?