The son of Randall Echanis, deputy secretary general of the militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP orPeasant Movement of the Philippines), has sought the help of Senate President Manuel Villar and House Speaker Jose de Venecia to facilitate the immediate and unconditional release of his father.
BY GERRY ALBERT CORPUZ
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 1, February 3-9, 2008
The son of Randall Echanis, deputy secretary general of the militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines), has sought the help of Senate President Manuel Villar and House Speaker Jose de Venecia (The appeal was made before the change in House leadership) to facilitate the immediate and unconditional release of his father.
In a press conference called Feb. 1 by KMP officers led by chairperson Rafael Mariano, secretary-general Danilo Ramos and deputy secretary-general Willy Marbella, Ranmil Echanis, 27, the elder of Echanis’ two children, made the appeal to the two leaders of Congress, adding that the Senate President and House Speaker could help in the release of his father.
The 59-year old KMP leader was implicated by the government and the military in the alleged purge within the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in Hilongos, Leyte from 1983 to 1985. He was implicated together with Bayan Muna party list Rep. Satur Ocampo, and more than 50 other personalities who are allegedly CPP leaders. He was arrested last Jan. 28 in Bago City, Negros Occidental while attending a national agrarian workers’ conference sponsored by the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Union of Workers in Agriculture) and the Negros-based National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW).
His son refuted the allegations, saying the charges against his father were fabricated by the Arroyo government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). “My father is not a criminal,” said Ranmil, a convener of the Free Randall Echanis Movement (Freedom), in a press statement. “He is a man of justice and peace. His life has been devoted to serving the interest of the people.”
“My father was incarcerated by the Marcos dictatorship from 1983 to 1986,” Ranmil added. “He was under a solitary confinement, and we were not even allowed to visit him while he was in detention. The story about the Leyte mass grave is nothing but a pure psy war operation of the national security gang of Malacañang.”
Randall’s son took an early morning flight to Tacloban City to file the motion to quash the “defective information and warrant” issued by the Leyte Regional Trial Court in Hilongos against his father in connection with the 15 counts of murder filed by the Philippine military.
The young Echanis said his father was in the meeting to discuss preparation plans for the KMP and agricultural workers union in the forthcoming National Rural Congress to be conducted by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
Arrest is violation of JASIG
In the Netherlands, Luis Jalandoni, chair of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel said the illegal arrest of Echanis by the regime’s forces is a “flagrant violation” of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
“Mr. Echanis, publicly known as a member of the NDFP official delegation to the peace talks and known to officials of the Royal Norwegian Government as Third Party Facilitator of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations is protected by the safety and immunity guarantees stipulated in the JASIG,” Jalandoni said in a statement, a copy of which was furnished to Bulatlat.
The NDFP said the arrested KMP leader participated in formal peace talks in Oslo and has taken part in discussions towards a draft tentative agreement on social and economic reforms, the second substantive agenda in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.
“He has played a key role in developing the NDFP draft of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social Economic Reforms (CASER), especially with regard to the peasant question and land reform,” the Utrecht based NDFP leader said.
Jalandoni said the filing of charges of common crimes against Echanis and his co-accused in the Hilongos mass grave case grossly violated the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
Fernando Hicap, chair of the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya (Pamalakaya or National Alliance of Small Fisherfolk Organizations) also supported the call of Echanis’ son for Villar and De Venecia to recommend to the government through the Department of Justice (DoJ) the dropping of charges fabricated by the military against Echanis and pursue the resumption of peace talks between the government and the communist-led NDFP without preconditions.