August 10, 2021 – The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines marks the one-year anniversary of the torture and assassination of Randall Echanis, 71, by the brutal Duterte Regime. Echanis was killed at about 1.20am Manila time, last August 10, 2020. Five men were seen leaving the rented home of Randall Echanis, in Novaliches, Quezon City, Philippines. Inside the bodies of Echanis and a neighbour were found, with multiple stab wounds.
Echanis was a veteran peasant leader and is remembered for his role in the peace process. As a Peace Consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, he was a member of the 2016-17 Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms in the formal peace talks sponsored by the Royal Norwegian Government. He successfully negotiated with the government delegation for agreement in principle on the free distribution of land to peasant farmers in those talks.
A year later the pattern of his killing is painfully clear, Echanis’ death was a harbinger of state terror. He is one of eight peace consultants killed by Duterte’s death squads in the Regime’s war on dissent.
Echanis’ death was preceded by that of Randy Felix Malayao, a journalist, human rights defender and peace advocate. Since 2008, he had served as a consultant on political and constitutional reforms for the NDFP, a coalition of groups that has long been engaging in peace negotiations with the Philippine government. The human rights defender also participated in the formal peace negotiations in Rome in 2016. Malayo was shot dead while he slept on a bus in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya, on January 30, 2019.
Also killed prior to Echanis was peace consultant Julius Giron, along with his wife doctor Maria Lourdes Tangco, and aide Arvie Reyes. The three were killed in in a police raid in March 2020, in Baguio City. Giron was a senior consultant in the GRP-NDFP peace talks on social, economic and political reforms. He was holder of a Document of Identification which entitled him to protection and immunity under the JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees).
Since Echanis’s assassination last August five other peace consultants have been murdered: At 3 am on November 25, 2020, a couple, Agaton Topacio and Eugenia Magpantay, both 68 and both peace consultants were gunned down by police in their home in Angonon town, Rizal tokhang style as they were serving a search warrant.
In December 2020, retired NDF Peace Consultant Antonio Cabanatan, 74 and wife Florenda Yap, were abducted, secretly detained and ultimately murdered by the AFP. Their bodies were found in a military safehouse in Oton, Iloilo on December 26, 2020, killed by strangulation.
More recently on May 30, 2021, former Roman Catholic priest and former NDFP peace consultant Rustico Luna Tan, 80 years old, was killed on Camotes Island, Cebu as he slept on his hammock, shot in his face and torso by unidentified assailants.
The same day Reynaldo Bocala, 74 years of age, a peace consultant in Iloilo City, was killed by members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group at Providence Subdivision in Barangay Balabag in the town of Pavia.
Tan and Bocala were “summarily executed” following a directive from Duterte “to take no prisoners” in quashing communists in the Philippines.
It is disgraceful that peace negotiators, who were told in a legal agreement that they would be immune to prosecution or to the belligerence of the state, would be slain in such a fashion.
ICHRP Chairperson Peter Murphy stated, “None of these aging consultants were combatants, they did not deserve to be targeted by the state’s armed forces. Their killings are illegal and demonstrate the brutal Duterte regime’s callous disregard for the rule of law, civility and the peace process”.
He further added, “The ongoing systematic assassination of peace consultants is a calibrated operation of the Duterte counter-insurgency program, Oplan Kapanatagan. It is designed to destroy any dialogue that may resolve the five-decade long armed conflict in the Philippines, and instead pursue all out political violence against civilians in the regimes war on dissent.
“We call on all Member States of the UN Human Rights Council to be seized of the seriousness of the human rights situation in the Philippines, to revisit their decision of October 2020 and to adopt the recommendations of last year’s June 30 report on the human rights situation in the Philippines, including an independent investigation,” said Mr Murphy.