Dispatch from Crame No. 876: Sen. Leila M. de Lima on the Murder of Randy Echanis


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We lost another peace advocate. Brutally. Frail old man, tortured, stabbed, and shot in the wee hours of the morning, body forcibly taken from grieving family. His neighbor was also found lifeless with his hands tied. Just when we thought we’ve seen the worst.

Bagama’t hindi na nakakagulat ang mga ganitong karumal-dumal na mga pangyayari sa ilalim ni Duterte. Sa pinakaliblib na lugar man yan, sa matao at maingay na syudad, sa kalaliman ng gabi, sa katirikan ng araw, sa gitna ng isang pandemya. Lahat puwedeng patayin ng kulturang marahas na ang naghasik ay isang pangulong berdugo. Nakakagalit, nakakakilabot, lalo na kung maiisip mong kamakailan lang ay binitawan ng pangulong ito ang mga ganitong kataga: “Yung mga kalaban ko sabihin ko sa military, do not use the needle, bayoneta ang gamitin mo.”

I am deeply disturbed with the way police authorities are handling the murder of Anakpawis National Chairperson Randy Echanis, from the initial denial that the deceased is the same person, arresting a paralegal, threatening his widow’s lawyer, preventing supporters to hold mass, to denying his family their right to grieve. What gave the PNP the authority over the body of a deceased, even for the purposes of a criminal investigation? Duterte’s Terror law?

But what makes this more disturbing is the Palace’s seeming haste to distance itself from the case, with the Presidential Spokesperson and formerly so-called human rights lawyer quickly dismissing allegations that it is a state-sponsored killing, even going to the extent of red-tagging the slain peasant leader with “ang CPP-NPA, sila-sila nagpapatayan.” Patay na nga, biktima pa rin si Ka Randy ng red-tagging at mula pa sa isang opisyal ng gobyerno. Masyado naman pong obvious.

In an ideal world, the spokesperson will say, “This is wrong. We will ensure an independent, impartial probe. We condole with the family in their time of grief.” But we are very, very far from that ideal world. Our president is not an epitome of all things just and right. Our state security forces haven’t been exactly making us feel secured. And the law is being weaponized to ensure that no space is left for legitimate dissent in this country.

At kung ganyan din lang naman na puwedeng patayin na lang na parang hayop ang mga itinuturing ng rehimeng ito na kaaway, bakit may Anti-Terror law pa sila? The Anti-Terror Law, it seems, is there to legitimize all the atrocities that are being committed and will be committed against critics. Kailangan may pantapal na legal sa mga kademonyohang ginagawa sa sambayanan. Tipikal sa isang rehimen na takot sa sariling multo. A regime that relentlessly seeks to terrorize — even in death! — those who stand for truth and social justice.

As Ka Randy’s life of fighting for the people is immortalized in the continuing struggle for truth, justice, and peace, another frail, old man but absolutely loathsome and in no way honorable, is desperately clinging to the last vestiges of his power. Nalalapit na ang araw ng paghuhukom at pananagutan.

(Access the handwritten copy of Dispatch from Crame No. 876 here: https://issuu.com/senatorleilam.delima/docs/dispatch_no._876

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