By CLEMENTE BAUTISTA JR.
It was in 2011, during the first year of the Aquino administration, when I first got to work closely with peace builder and land defender Randall ‘Ka Randy’ Echanis, deputy secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and peace consultant of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
I remember Ka Randy and another NDFP consultant, Rafael ‘Ka Raffy’ Baylosis, spearheaded then widespread consultations with different mass movements and civil society in developing the content of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER).
The CASER is a proposed agreement negotiated between the revolutionary NDFP and the Philippine government that proposes a suite of socio-economic policies and programs that will resolve the root causes of social conflict in the Philippines: mass poverty and social injustice.
I can recall how magkabagang Ka Randy and Ka Raffy vividly shared the vision of CASER in laying down the foundations for the Filipino people to pursue a just, progressive, and democratic society. How it is possible for warring parties like the Philippine Government and the NDFP to ‘beat swords into ploughshares’, as the expression goes, if they shared such an aspiration.
For the toiling peasant masses that Ka Randy tirelessly fought for, ploughshares, and humble land to till with it, are literally their most ardent aspiration.
I was fortunate to have shared in-depth discussions with Ka Randy on how we can integrate in CASER the aspiration and demands of the environmentalists for people to live in a society where there is a balanced, clean, and healthy ecology. It was not difficult to share the dream of having a society where the government will protect and rehabilitate our devastated environment.
It reminded me of a video series where Ka Randy succinctly explained the environment agenda within CASER: A domestic economy that ensures the optimal and sustainable utilization of our natural resources for the benefit of our people and country while at the same time ensures the health of our mother earth and we its children, respects the rights of the people, and ensures the future of the next generation.
Ka Randy actively sought out groups such as ours in different parts of the country for our comments and suggestions on how to further improve CASER. They let a thousand flowers bloom in these discussions with Filipino environmental advocates. But he also walked the talk alongside his fellow land and peasant activists by joining us in our various struggles to defend the environment from destructive projects like large-scale mining operations, land reclamation projects, and agribusiness plantations.
One collaborative effort we had then was in 2015 when we became the convenors of Network Resisting Expansion of Agricultural Plantations or REAP. It was established to lead a multisectoral campaign in opposing the land-grabbing, biodiversity loss, deforestation and toxic contamination being brought about by the expansion and operation of corporate agricultural plantations in the country.
It saddens me, infuriates me to no end, that we will never see Ka Randy again in its convenor’s meetings. Or in peace consultations. Or on the parliament of the streets.
We will never forget Ka Randy’s deeds in pursuing peace, fighting for people’s rights, defending our lands. The fascist murderers and the police who stole Ka Randy’s remains from his family believe that ending his life will discourage people from continuing their advocacy for peace and justice.
They are dead wrong. Many more will take the path less travelled taken by Ka Randy until the last sword is beaten into a ploughshare.
Rest in power, Ka Randy.