Echanis sustained multiple wounds before fatal stab in heart — forensic pathologist

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Elderly peasant activist Randall Echanis suffered several punctures and stab wounds before he was deliberately stabbed fatally, showing implications of torture, a forensic pathologist said.

Forensic pathologist Raquel Fortun, in a virtual presser hosted by Anakpawis party-list, could not explicitly say it was torture, explaining that “torture” is not a conclusion or term in her field of study.

“The implication [of torture] seems to be there, that if literally torture means suffering was inflicted, in this sense, physical suffering, it looks like he sustained a lot of injuries first that were not intended to kill him outright,” she said.

An examination of the body showed that Echanis died due to a stab wound to the back that hit his aorta, the main artery connected the heart. "I would say na mukhang totoong binaon and again that would be indicative of deliberateness," Fortun explained.

While this fatal wound “killed him at once, however, he had other injuries which were inflicted while he was still alive,” she noted.

“You see the distribution [of stab wounds] at the back. This is where you can see that there is seemingly a pattern. It implies intent, then he was not immediately killed,” Fortun added in a mix of English and Filipino.

Fortun also said that there was little indication of struggle, as she noted that Echanis was already 71 and not much force was needed to immobilize him.

Echanis and his neighbor, Louie Tagapia, were killed in an apartment in Quezon City, wee hours of Monday night.

Delay, processing of crime scene

Fortun conducted the autopsy on Echanis’ body, brought to the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital after a tug-of-war on his remains that lasted for three days.

She said they already had a request on the same day Echanis was killed, but they could only start on the autopsy on Thursday—after police had finally relented and acknowledged that it was really Echanis who was killed.

This "confusion" on the identity of the body — due to the insistence of the police that an ID recovered said it was "Manuel Santiago" who was killed, despite Echanis' widow identifying the body — also caused a delay on the investigation from the Department of Justice.

DOJ's Administrative Order 35 Task Force, the panel investigating cause-oriented killings, proceeded on its probe only on Thursday, when authorities ascertained the identity of the victim.

Fortun expressed frustration and fear that the crime scene was not carefully processed.

“It’s very frustrating. I fear the worst which is the physical evidence on the scene could have been wasted because it was not seen properly, it was not documented,” she added.

The Commission on Human Rights and the DOJ are conducting probes into Echanis’ case.

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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