Regional women’s rights network urges immediate release of Amanda Echanis, her baby

Regional women�s rights network urges immediate release of Amanda Echanis, her baby
This photo posted by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas shows Amanda Echanis and her baby. Echanis was arrested for illegal possession of explosives and firearms on December 2,2020.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Handout

MANILA, Philippines — Calls to free peasant organizer Amanda Echanis and her month-old son from prison are mounting.

The latest of her champions is the Southeast Asian Feminist Action Movement (SEAFAM), a regional network with an initial focus on Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines,"as countries [are] currently facing significant challenges in terms of democracy and human rights."

The network's call for Echanis and her baby's release follows that of the minority bloc in the Senate and several rights groups in the Philippines. 

Along with groups from Indonesia and Malaysia, SEAFAM's members include local groups Bahaghari, Gabriela Youth Cavite, Sulong, as well as student coalition Time's Up Ateneo and publisher Gantala Press.

"We call on the Philippine government to immediately release Amanda and drop all charges against her. We also demand that Amanda's baby is released with her and that the two are not separated," a statement posted by SEAFAM on Saturday reads.


A post shared by SEAFAM (@seafamnetwork)

Echanis, daughter to recently murdered peace consultant Randall, and organizer for women peasants' group Amihan, was arrested on December 2, for alleged possession of firearms and explosives — a charge which she and her lawyers deny. Her newborn baby Randall Emmanuel, named after her father, was picked up along with her.

'Silencing by red-tagging'

"Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case but rather one of many. What has happened to Amanda is a form of silencing known as 'red-tagging,' in which individuals and organizations are accused of being communists and terrorists," SEAFAM said.

"Red-tagging must stop, as must the targeting of human rights defenders in general. The human rights of all Filipinos must be upheld and protected," it added.

In its own statement released last Thursday, the Commission on Human Rights noted that Echanis' arrest "is the latest in a string of arrests and attacks against alleged members of the New People’s Army."

Earlier that week, constitutional lawyer Antonio La Viña appealed to the Senate defense panel to outlaw red-tagging "because it is terrorism in its worst form."

CHR Commissioner Karen Dumpit, at the same hearing, added that red-tagging "continues to threaten life, liberty and security of human rights defenders across sectors."

"It cannot be denied that tagging is a matter of serious concern that should not be taken lightly. Aside from the delegitimization of dissent and public stigmatization, it is more often than not a prelude or even an open invitation for anyone to commit atrocities against the persons tagged," she said.

READ: Activism and taking up arms vs government are different things, CHR stresses | As Senate holds hearing on red-tagging, Amnesty urges end to 'deadly practice'

SEAFAM's statement follows yet another surge in arrests — on International Human Rights Day no less. Six trade unionists and a journalist were picked up on Thursday, with authorities again accusing them of alleged possession of firearms and explosives. 

This charge, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre Olalia noted Friday, is usually filed against activists, further claiming that this is because it is the easiest way to lock up activists.

As of December 3, rights alliance group Karapatan said more than 400 political prisoners arrested under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte are accused of these same charges.

"We demand justice for all women activists and political prisoners in the Philippines as well as across Southeast Asia," SEAFAM said.

RELATED: Palace urges protection of Amanda Echanis’ child but stands firm on ‘truth-tagging’Criminalize red-tagging? Lacson says Constitution will be his guide

— with reports from Bella Perez-Rubio and Franco Luna

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