NDFP peace consultant killed in Quezon City home

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 10) — National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Randall "Randy" Echanis was killed in his home early Monday morning, his colleagues said.

The 72-year-old Echanis and a neighbor "were killed inside a rented house in Novaliches, Quezon City," according to a statement by Anakpawis Partylist, which Echanis headed.

However, the Quezon City Police District has identified the dead body as a “Manuel Santiago,” owing to the identification card found with him. It added that the landlady of the apartment confirmed that the name appearing in the ID is similar to how she has known the victim.

QCPD chief Brigadier General Ronnie Montejo said that fingerprint and DNA comparisons must be done in order to validate the claim of NDFP that “Santiago” is Echanis.

“For the meantime, we should stick with the facts of the case,” Montejo said.

But NDFP legal consultant Edre Olalia said that to publicly accept the identity of a victim based solely on an ID reportedly found in the crime scene is “either naïveté, laziness or plain incompetence.”

Olalia pointed out that Echanis, as a mass leader and an active participant in peace negotiations, was a public figure.

“Surely the police 'intelligence' had a cache of pictures of him with all the interest on his person and activities and with all the funds for police trainings and seminars on police investigation and ‘intelligence,’” he 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 continued.

Montejo said an investigation is already being conducted into the death of the two men.

What happened?

According to the police, a cursory examination showed that the certain “Santiago” sustained multiple stab wounds on different parts of his body, while his neighbor who was identified as Louie Tagapia, 48, also sustained a head wound.

Montejo said a downstairs neighbor was awakened at around 1:35 a.m. by a loud noise coming from the apartment unit where the two were eventually found dead.

The police report stated that the witness “saw the suspects hurriedly coming out from their apartment” when he peeped through the window, before going upstairs to check what happened.

Five unidentified male persons were tagged as suspects in the police report.

Meanwhile, former Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao alleged that Echanis, believed to be one of the victims, “was unarmed when police forces raided his house.

"Our anger is beyond words. This is a culture of extrajudicial killings with impunity under the Duterte regime," Casilao said. "This is a declaratory act that national leaders of legal-democratic movement are now targeted to be killed by the Duterte regime."

Echanis, a known peasant leader and activist, was a third nominee of Anakpawis during the 2010 partylist elections.

Other leftist groups condemned the reported killing of Echanis, noting that the incident happened after the passage of the controversial anti-terrorism law, which has raised mounting concerns on possible attacks by state forces among activists.

"This happened even as the new terror law is now in effect. With extrajudicial killings still rampant, a reign of terror would truly ensue with its full implementation," said Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate.

"We have all reasons to believe that this is the handiwork of state forces and mercenaries of the Duterte government," said Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chair Danilo Ramos.

On late Monday night, Anakpawis Party-list said the body of Echanis was forcibly taken by policemen from his family’s chosen funeral home, after his wife already positively identified his body.

"I condemn the persistent harassment of PNP La Loma-QCPD and their brazen act of snatching the remains of my husband Randall 'Randy' Echanis from us," his wife said.

She added that the lifeless body bore "torture marks, multiple stab and gunshot wounds."

The wife said the police claimed "a release order" hasn't been issued yet, and that the cadaver will be brought to Pink Petal Funeral Homes in La Loma under their custody.