Marcos urged to release peasant advocate after 3 years in jail

James Relativo - Philstar.com
Marcos urged to release peasant advocate after 3 years in jail
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 Dec. 2, 2020.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Handout

MANILA, Philippines — On the third anniversary of Amanda Echanis' arrest, supporters and human rights advocates urged President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to grant freedom to the political prisoner.

Echanis, daughter of murdered Anakpawis chairperson Randall Echanis, was arrested on Dec. 2, 2020 following a search warrant for alleged illegal possession of explosives and firearms — with supporters saying that the charges were made up.

"The courts are intentionally delaying Amanda’s case, trying to keep her in jail when they can’t even present a single credible witness or piece of evidence. We went the whole 2023 without any progress!" said Tao Aves, spokesperson of Free Amanda Echanis Movement.

"What state forces have done to Amanda is not an isolated case. Planting firearms and explosives and fabricating criminal cases against activists are part of a large scheme to vilify their organizations and advocacies. This is a clear violation of their Human Rights and Constitutional Rights," he added.

According to FAEM, only three hearings proceeded due to "uspicious and arbitrary postponements of the Cagayan Regional Trial Court Branch 10."

The 77th Infantry Batallion is being accused of the group of planting evidence in a search and seizure at the house where Amanda and her almost 2-week-old infant stayed in Baggao, Cagayan.

In June 2022, Marcos vowed to protect human rights during his watch after meeting with the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator to the Philippines Gustavo Gonzales.

A total of 795 political prisoners in the Philippines are reportedly under government custody as of Nov. 30, 2023, according to data from human rights group Karapatan.

Echanis is said to be among of the the country's most prominent cases of red-tagging "leading to an illegal arrest."

Before her arrest, Echanis was known for "educating, mobilizing, and organizing peasant women in Cagayan Valley under the National office of AMIHAN, Federation of Peasant Women in the Philippines."

She is also a writer and the author of "Binhi ng Paglaya," published by Gantala Press in 2023.

Recommendation of UN Special Rapporteur lauded

FAEM supported the recent recommendation by Ian Fry, the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on human rights concerning climate change, to abolish the contentious National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). They emphasized the necessity for a comprehensive and impartial investigation into its operations.

"The NTF-ELCAC is wasting taxpayer’s money for red-tagging, resulting in human rights violations," Tao said.

"The Marcos Jr administration must show its sincerity by confronting this as the biggest threat to civil liberties," he added.

Fry earlier observed that the ELCAC was operating beyond its original mandate, engaging in red-tagging within communities and indigenous groups. He highlighted the influence of private financial interests as a driving force behind the ELCAC's actions.

National Security Adviser Eduardo Año earlier said that Fry's report on the NTF-ELCAC was "incomplete," stating that context is required to enrich the report and that he had a very limited time in his visit. Año likewise invited Fry for a dialogue on the matter.

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