Guevarra orders probe on Echanis' slay

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday ordered an investigation into the killing of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Randy Echanis.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra

The secretary said he has already instructed the DOJ’s Administrative Order No. 35 Task Force on Extrajudicial Killings (EJK) to conduct the investigation.

“Upon the assumption that the subject was indeed peasant leader Echanis, I have directed the AO 35 task force on EJK to form a special investigating team to look into the incident,” said Guevarra who is the chairman of the Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Judicial Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture, and Other Grave Violations of the Right of Life, Liberty and Security of Persons.

The interagency committee was formed back in 2012 pursuant to AO 35 issued by then President Benigno Aquino III.

The secretary explained “AO 35 covers the summary killings of persons on account of their advocacies, such as labor and peasant leaders, but not common crimes involving ordinary persons.”

“In view of the emerging confusion as to the identity of the subject, however, we shall await confirmation by the family of the deceased that the subject was indeed peasant leader Echanis,” Guevarra said.

“It is necessary to confirm the identity of the victim before the task force on EJK starts its investigation of the incident,” he said.

Although the family has already identified the body to be Echanis, police identified him in its police report as Manuel Santiago based on the identification card found on him.

Echanis, 72, and Louie Tagapia, 48, were stabbed and killed at around 1:35 a.m. Monday, Aug. 10, inside their rented home in Barangay Nova Proper in Novaliches, Quezon City.

Police also said that five unidentified individuals were behind the killings.

Echanis, who was a long-time NDPF consultant and a member of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms, was involved in the peace talks with the Duterte administration from 2016 to 2017.

He was also the deputy secretary general of militant peasant organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Anakpawis nominee in the 2010 elections.