Relatives, colleagues, and supporters of jailed peasant leader Randall “Ka Randy” Echanis launched the 58-page literary folio Panata sa Paglaya (Vow to Freedom) last Feb. 3. The folio contains poems by and for Echanis, as well as other literary and artistic pieces.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Anong kapalaran itong biglang dumating?
Tila makapal na ulap
na sa liwanag ay tumabing
hindi inaasahan, lalong hindi ninais
masakit, mapait, makirot
tila balaraw na sa puso ko’y tumusok.
Nais nilang ako’y ilayo sa piling ng sinta ko
takpan ang aking mga mata,
busalan ang bibig,
igapos ang mga kamay at ibaon sa hukay.
Ang mga halimaw ay nagbubunyi’t sumisigaw:
ang taong iyan ay kriminal na dapat parusahan,
pahirapan at huwag kakalagan
hayaang mabulok sa kulungan upang huwag pamarisan.
Ngunit mataas man ang pader
at may rehas na harang
palibutan man ng alambre at punuin ng gwardiya,
ang munting parisukat na aking iniikutan
harangan man nila ng libong sibat
ang daraanan ko
patuloy silang mabibigo
sapagkat palabang diwa ko’y ‘di susuko
at lalaya akong nakataas
ang nakakuyom na kamao.
This is the full text of “Panata sa Paglaya” (Vow to Freedom), a poem by peasant leader and political detainee Randall “Ka Randy” Echanis.
The poem is one of 15 pieces by Echanis which are included in a literary folio of the same title.
Published by the Free Randall Echanis Movement (Freedom) and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) in cooperation with the poetry group Kilometer 64, Panata sa Paglaya also contains poetry contributions by KMP secretary-general Danilo Ramos; National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison; KMP national auditor Antonio Flores; National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera; poet-screenwriter Jose F. lacaba, poet-peasant organizer and former political detainee Axel Pinpin; Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) public information officer Gerry Albert Corpuz; Kilometer 64 members Rustum Casia, Maureen Gaddi dela Cruz, and Dennis Espada; University of the Philippines (UP) Manila professor John Ponsaran; and this writer. There are also essay contributions by Amanda Echanis, Ka Randy’s daughter; and by Edberto Villegas and Roland Tolentino, as well as a photo essay by Candice Reyes of the Philippine Collegian.
Echanis studied at the Philippine College of Commerce or PCC, now the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), and the University of the East (UE) in the 1960s. It was at the PCC that he got his first exposure to activism. He was later made chairman of the UE chapter of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM or Patriotic Youth).
In the 1970s, at the height of martial law, Echanis took to the countryside where he did peasant organizing work in the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, and Cordillera Regions.
He was arrested in 1983 and was placed for two years under solitary confinement at Camp Aguinaldo, the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Following his release in 1986 by virtue of then President Corazon Aquino’s general amnesty proclamation, Echanis co-founded the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainee Laban sa Detensyon at Para sa Amnestiya (Selda or Society of Ex-Detainees for Liberation from Detention and for Amnesty), as well as the Partido ng Bayan (PnB or People’s Party).
In 1987 he went back to the countryside and became active again in peasant organizing until his arrest in 1990. Following his arrest, he was kept for a week in a safehouse, where he was tortured. He was eventually transferred to the PNP Custodial Center, where he was detained along with his daughter Amanda, then two years old. He was released in 1992 after the court dismissed the case of illegal possession of firearms in furtherance of rebellion filed against him.
In 1999, during the KMP’s fifth National Congress, he was elected as the group’s deputy secretary-general for external affairs. In 2001 he was elected to the National Council of the First Quarter Storm Movement (FQSM). Since 2002, he has been helping in the GRP-NDFP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines-National Democratic Front of the Philippines) peace negotiations as a member of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee for Social and Economic Reforms.
At the time of his third arrest, he was attending a conference on agrarian reform initiated by the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA or Union of Workers in Agriculture).
He was detained at the Provincial Jail in Palo, Leyte. In late July, he was transferred to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame, but, only a few days later, was again transferred, this time to the Manila City Jail.
He is facing murder charges stemming from allegations that he masterminded a purge within the ranks of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in Inopacan, Leyte in 1984 – when he was in detention.
Jan. 28 marked the first year after his third arrest. Hearings on his case were suspended in December and a petition for certiorari is pending at the Supreme Court.
Echanis is suffering from an inflamed gall bladder and an enlarged prostate gland, but the court has denied his request to be allowed to undergo surgery.
It is this history of activism and resolute struggle in the face of adversity that is highlighted in the pieces that make up Panata sa Paglaya.
The 58-page literary folio was launched Feb. 3 at the Conspiracy Bar and Garden Cafe in Quezon City, with the Artists’ Response to the Call for Social Change and Transformation (Artists’ ARREST) among the event’s co-presenters.
Pinpin opened the event with a performance of his untitled poem for Echanis:
Sa bawat hiyaw ng trompa – Pyudalismo!
at tugon ng mainit na hininga ng kalsada – Ibagsak!
ay nanunulay sa aking pisngi
ang pawis ng magsasaka
at ang ngiti at ngalit ng iyong mukha – Ka Randy
na silbing moog ng paalala
sa mga binhing iyong inihasik
sa lansangan ng lungsod at dahilig ng bundok;
na hindi ang lagim ng rehas ang marapat na katakutan
kundi’y ang putikang paang nag-aklas
ang tunay na banta
sa umagaw sa iyo,
sa ating laya!
Other performers included Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Rafael Mariano; KMP leaders Wilfredo Marbella, and Imelda Lacandazo; Pamalakaya chairman Fernando Hicap; musicians Jess Santiago, Bobby Balingit, and Mark Villanueva; and student Ricky Tejada. (Bulatlat.com)