Police have no authority to hold Echanis' body, demand DNA test â lawyer
Photo taken on Wednesday, August 12, shows police officers present during a mass held for slain peasant activist Randall Echanis.
Release / Anakpawis Party-list on Twitter
Police have no authority to hold Echanis' body, demand DNA test — lawyer
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - August 12, 2020 - 2:29pm

MANILA, Philippines — Police officers of the Quezon City Police District do not have the authority nor the power to withhold the remains of slain peasant activist Randall Echanis, the family's lawyer said on Wednesday. 

Echanis' body was found in a rented house in Novaliches, Quezon City with multiple stab and gunshot wounds, though police have asserted that the victim was a certain "Manuel Santiago," according to an identification card found at the scene. 

The peasant advocate's family and friends had already identified the body as Echanis' at St. Peter’s Funeral Chapel when cops took the body back to Pink Petals Memorial Homes, saying a DNA test be conducted to prove his identity. They also claimed that a "release order" was needed for the body.

They also arrested a paralegal of Anakpawis Party-list, filing a case of obstruction of justice.  

Jobert Pahilga, the family's lawyer, said in a statement: "The police [have] no power nor authority to require that DNA process because the wife, the children, the friends, and lawyers of Ka Randy positively identified that it is Ka Randy!"

"No other person came out to claim the body of Ka Randy! The pictures of Ka Randy when he was still alive and the picture after he was brutally murdered shows it is Ka Randy! Ka Randy is already dead. Can the police please now allow him to rest in peace!" he added.

Anakpawis: QCPD trying to stop mass for Echanis

In his statement, Pahilga also cited Articles 306 and 309 of the Civil Code, which read:


ARTICLE 306. Every funeral shall be in keeping with the social position of the deceased.

ARTICLE 309. Any person who shows disrespect to the dead, or wrongfully interferes with a funeral shall be liable to the family of the deceased for damages, material and moral.

Anakpawis party-list also said on Wednesday that personnel of the Quezon City Police District also tried to disperse a mass held for the murdered peace consultant. 

The mass was being held in front of the Pink Petals Memorial Homes in Quezon City where Echanis’ remains were being withheld, the party-list said, and where cops claimed that the mass-goers were violating quarantine protocols. 

Addressing the Philippine National Police in a tweet, Anakpawis Party-list said they had "positive result of the cross matching tests indicating that PNP-hostaged cadaver was Ka Randy Echanis" and wrote: "We told you so. Withholding Echanis’ remains was plain harassment and delaying tactics for whatever your sinister agenda is on his cadaver." 

"Ka Randy was due for (an) autopsy when the PNP forcibly took his body from the family. The police are clearly trying to prevent us from knowing the cause of death," they also said. 

QCPD: Paralegal lied about coordinating with police

A spot report by the Quezon City Police District sent to reporters on Tuesday night also claimed that Paolo Colabres, Anakpawis paralegal, went to Pink Petals Funeral Services and claimed that the body belonged "to their relative" and "pretended that they coordinated with CIDU and was given approval to claim the body."

"Afterwards, they immediately transferred the cadaver to St. Peter’s Funeral Home in Quezon Avenue," QCPD said. 

QCPD still asserted that the body belonged to one "Manuel Santiago," using the name to refer to Echanis in its statement. 

"However, upon discovery that there was no coordination from the CIDU on the release and transfer of the body, employees of Pink Petals Funeral Home together with La Loma PS 1 led by PLT Ronaldo Ambatang immediately arrested Colabres, while Atty. Perez eluded the arrest," the report read. 

"Meanwhile, the cadaver of Santiago was brought back to Pink Petals Funeral Home, La Loma while the investigation is still ongoing," it said. 

Police Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo, QCPD director, also said in Filipino: "I urge the public to cooperate and provide information on the killing of the said victims for a faster resolution of this case."

CHR: Gov't obligated to investigate violations

The Commission on Human Rights in a statement issued Tuesday night expressed "deep concern" on the incident and disclosed that it had already launched an independent investigation of its own into the matter. 

"Despite the termination of life, CHR reminds the government that such condition does not extinguish the government’s obligation to investigate violations and ensure that further injustices are prevented. The government, after all, remains to be the primary duty-bearer of the obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of all—without discriminating based on religion, social status, political affiliation, nor any identifier aside from a person’s humanity," the commission's statement read. 

"The issue then becomes a matter of respect for human dignity and speaks of the kind of society that we mold."

In a tweet, Sen. Risa Hontiveros also wrote: "This is cold-blooded murder. There should be an independent investigation led by the CHR with the full cooperation of the PNP."

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