DOJ probe into Echanis' case to proceed after PNP finally acknowledges victim identity
Erlinda Echanis, wife of slain National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Randall “Randy” Echanis, cries at Pink Petals Funeral Homes in Quezon City as she claims the body of her husband.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
DOJ probe into Echanis' case to proceed after PNP finally acknowledges victim identity
Kristine Joy Patag ( - August 13, 2020 - 10:24am

MANILA, Philippines — After the delay due to a supposed “confusion” on the victim’s identity, the Department of Justice task force investigating cause-oriented killings will start looking into the murder of peasant activist Randall Echanis, Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Thursday.

The task force under Administrative Order 35 covers summary killings on account of advocacies. Due to this, the panel must first determine that the victim is peasant activist Echanis, before it can proceed with the work. A supposed confusion on the identity of the stabbing victim emerged, when police insisted that the person is a certain “Manuel Santiago” based on an ID they recovered, while the widow, Erlinda, had been asserting it was her husband who was killed from day one.

READ: QCPD acknowledges body that widow identified days ago is Randy Echanis'

“I understand that the [Philippine National Police] has released the body to the Echanis family upon verifying that the deceased was indeed Randall Echanis. In that case the [National Bureau of Investigation] need not do another verification, and the DOJ/AO 35 special investigation team may proceed to do its work,” Guevarra told reporters.

Ahead of the DOJ-led probe, rights group Karapatan expressed cynicism on the task force’s work, citing its failure to make substantial progress in resolving past killings of activists.

But Guevarra said they will forge on with their work. “The DOJ will just go ahead and do what it is duty-bound to do,” he said Tuesday.

Anakpawis party-list for its part acknowledged the DOJ-led probe with tempered hopes, echoing Karapatan’s statement that they prefer an independent probe  from the Commission on Human Rights and other non-government groups.

“The DOJ’s investigation, being their mandate, however, should ensure fair and impartial proceedings, otherwise, it would be tokenistic efforts giving false hopes to the family and colleagues of the murdered activist and peace consultant,” Anakpawis said.

Complaints vs QC cops eyed

Meanwhile, Echanis’ family and colleagues are eyeing to take legal actions against the police forces who forcibly took his body away from his grieving widow, lawyer Jobert Pahilga said.

In an interview with ANC’s “Matters of Fact,” Pahilga of Sentra, counsel of the Echanis family, vowed that there will be a day of reckoning for the Quezon City police.

READ: Rights lawyers assert: Police no authority to hold Echanis body

“They tormented the family, to us that caused considerable moral and mental anguish to the family and friends of Ka Randy,” Pahilga said.

“His family and us and his colleagues are considering filing later if everything has already been settled, we will be taking legal actions,” he added.

On Wednesday night, the police finally acknowledged that the body is of Echanis, chairperson of Anakpawis party-list and consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Peasant Women’s Group AMIHAN said that the body of Echanis was transferred to the Philippine General Hospital in Manila on Wednesday night for the autopsy.

The murder of Echanis and his neighbor, Louie Tagapia, happened in the wee hours of Monday, in his rented home in Novaliches, Quezon City. The city, like the rest of Metro Manila, is under modified enhanced community quarantine, where quarantine checkpoints and police personnel visibility are standard.

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