DOJ taps special task force to look into killing of slain peasant leader Echanis
This photo release shows National Democratic Front of the Philippines Randall Echanis. He was killed wee hours of August 10, in his rented house in Novaliches.

DOJ taps special task force to look into killing of slain peasant leader Echanis

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - August 11, 2020 - 12:22pm

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra ordered the department's special task assigned to probe cause-oriented killings to look into the killing of peasant activist and peace consultant Randall Echanis.

The DOJ chief, however, said that authorities need to determine the identity of the deceased first, following police claims that the person killed is a certain “Manuel Santiago” and not Echanis.

“Upon the assumption that the subject was indeed peasant leader Echanis, I have directed [Administrative Order] 35 task force on [extrajudicial killing] to form a special investigating team to look into the incident,” Guevarra said.

AO 35 created the Inter-agency Committee on Extra-legal Killings, Enforced Disappearance, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons, which is chaired by the justice secretary.

The administrative order was issued in 2012 to address allegations that state and non-state actors have been "silencing, through violence and intimidation, legitimate dissent and opposition raised by members of the civil society, cause-oriented groups, political movements, people’s and non-government organizations, and by ordinary citizens."

RELATED: Why defining 'extrajudicial killings' in law is a vital step toward accountability

Anakpawis reported that its chaiperson, Randall, also a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, was killed wee hours of Monday at a rented house in Novaliches, Quezon City.

NBI to determine identity

Guevarra explained that due to the “emerging confusion” on the identity of the deceased, “we shall await confirmation by the family of the deceased that the subject was indeed peasant leader Echanis.”

“It is necessary to confirm the identity of the victim before the task force on EJK starts its investigation of the incident,” the DOJ chief added.

Guevarra said he will refer the question on the identity of the body to the National Bureau of Investigation Forensic Division.

Randall’s wife, Erlinda, had already positively identified the body of her husband “which bore torture marks, multiple stab and gunshot wounds,” her statement as shared by Anakpawis read.

Police, however, said that the person who was killed is a certain “Manuel Santiago,” citing the ID they recovered and statement from the landlady of the apartment.

The Quezon City police Public Information Office said that a DNA test or fingerprint analysis may be needed to ascertain the identity of the slain person.

DOJ Undersecretary Markk Perete also said that a “thorough forensic examination” may be needed for this. But he assured that the AO35 Secretariat is “preparing to investigate and determine the possible inclusion of the case under our mechanism.”

‘Heat map’ on killings

Perete, also DOJ’s spokesperson, said that the AO35 task force secretariat is also working on publishing a “heat map” of politically-motivated killings.

“In the course of this work (prosecute politically-motivated killings) and in gathering reports from the ground, the Secretariat has identified regional hotspots. It has also been studying the complexion of the cases per region,” he said.

The secretariat intended to publish this on the AO35 webpage in 2020, but the project suffered delays due to the pandemic such as budget realignments and prohibition on hiring of IT consultants.

“We are assessing if this time frame is still feasible,” Perete explained.

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