Ka Randy was illegally arrested by bonneted men last January 28 during a meeting of the UMA (Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agriculture/Union of Agricultural Workers), National Federation of Sugar Workers and the KMP (Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas/Peasant Movement of the Philippines) at the Builders Training Center, Brgy. Calumangan, Bago, Negros Oriental.
from the manner of the ‘arrest,’ the culprits clearly had more sinister plans if not for Ka Randy’s quick-thinking and the likewise quick reaction of his comrades and the local media in the province. witnesses say that the arresters were heavily armed, in plainclothes, without any identification and did not present any warrant or document for his arrest.
Ka Randy was then immediately whisked off in a helicopter from Bago City Jail to Hilongos, Leyte and charged with ‘multiple murder’ for the alleged ‘mass grave’ discovered in the province being attributed to Communist rebels. the authorities filed against him the same trumped up charges they used to arrest Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo last year.
Ocampo was later on freed for lack of evidence and ‘defective information’ provided by authorities. the military, however, insist that Ka Randy is a leading member of the Communist Party of the Philippines and therefore a ‘big catch.’
Who is Ka Randy?
i first met Ka Randy in 1999 at the Senate hearings for the ratification of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). i was in my 2nd year in UP and was there because my fellow activists and i planned to do a lightning rally right there at the session hall! Ka Randy was seated beside me but i didn’t know who he was back then. my nervousness probably transmitted to him because he struck a conversation with me as i was waiting for my companions’ cue to start the protest. i remember being wary of him because he might be from Senate Intelligence and they somehow got hold of our plan. we decided to cancel our protest when a truckload of military forces entered the session hall. i said goodbye to my new friend and forgot about him on my way back to the university.
the next day, the headlines in the TV news reported a lightning rally inside the Senate session hall by the KMP. i was shocked to see my new friend being dragged and manhandled with many others by Senate security as they were shouting anti-VFA and anti-imperialist slogans. turned out Ka Randy was at the Senate the day before to ‘scout and check out’ the security situation in the hearings for their action for the following day! i wasted no time and immediately went to visit him and his companions in some city jail near in Pasay (i think. i forget). he laughed when he saw me and good-naturedly teased the YS (youth sector) for ‘chickening out’. that was the start of my friendship/comradeship with Ka Randy and his wife Ka Linda which i continue to cherish to this day.
Ka Randy, like many other veteran leaders of the national democratic movement, was a child of the 60’s. he attended the Philippine College of Commerce (now the Polytechnic University of the Philippines) and became the chairperson of the Kabataang Makabayan-University of the East chapter and participated in the historical First Quarter Storm. he decided to go ‘underground’ when the KM was outlawed after the declaration of Martial Law, thus starting his almost life-long work of peasant organizing in the regions of Cagayan Valley, Ilocos and Cordillera.
he was arrested by military forces in 1983 and was placed in solitary confinement. upon his release in 1986, he joined SELDA (Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya/Organization of Ex-Detainess against Detention and for Amnesty). he went back to the countryside in 1987 and was once again arrested in 1990 together with his wife Ka Linda and then two-year-old daughter, Amanda. he was released in 1992 after the courts acquitted him of illegal possession of firearms and rebellion.
in 1999, he was elected as an officer of the KMP and represented the organization in numerous local and international fora discussing peasant welfare and concerns.
he was also a member of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines Reciprocal Working Committee for Social Economic Reforms for the peace talks between the NDFP and the Philippine government.
Ka Randy was spearheading the preparations for the National Rural Congress of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines when he was arrested last January.
Not a common criminal
this blog post from nato got me enraged. he had the chance to attend Ka Randy’s hearing at the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32 and related how Ka Randy was/is being treated like a common criminal.
Ka Randy’s lawyers argued that he could not have had anything to do with the alleged mass graves because he was in maximum security detention when the murders supposedly took place. they also protested the court’s failure to inform them of Ka Randy’s transfer from the Philippine National Police detention facility in Camp Crame to the Manila City Jail. anobah?! wala talagang respeto sa karapatang-tao ang mga awtoridad at wala man lang modang isama si Ka Randy sa himpilan ng mga political detainees at imbes ay ikukulong siya sa kasama ang mga magnanakaw, mamamatay-tao at durugista sa city jail! #%@$^%&$! he shouldn’t even be in jail at all. he is a senior citizen, a respected peasant leader and the charges against him are plain bull#$%! nakakapanggalaiti talaga!
Palayain si Ka Randall Echanis! Free Ka Randall Echanis! Sign the online petition here. ###