I attended the hearing of the case of Randy Echanis today at the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32. Ka Randy, a long-time peasant organizer, is accused of being part of murders committed in the 80’s, which resulted in alleged mass graves in Leyte. Ka Randy’s co-accused include Satur Ocampo and Jose Ma. Sison. Interestingly, when the so-called mass graves happened, Ka Randy was in maximum security detention by the forces of the Marcos dictatorship, and was not in any position to carry out murders on a mass scale. The charges are therefore a part of the continuing political persecution of known activists and Arroyo foes.
The case of Ka Randy was again in the media after his transfer from the Philippine National Police detention facility in Camp Crame to the Manila City Jail. The ex-parte motion done by the PNP was granted by presiding judge Thelma Medina. Counsels for Ka Randy complained that they were not informed of the transfer. They also protested the move which would put Ka Randy together with “common criminals” despite his status as a political prisoner or “prisoner of conscience”. The issue of the proper detention place for Ka Randy will still be deliberated on by branch 32.
Ka Randy was late for his hearing, probably because he had to wait in line with around 150 other detainees at the Manila City Jail.
We saw him being held at the corridor along with the other detainees. He was handcuffed with another prisoner, and he wore the yellow shirt with DETAINEE written on it.
He was being treated like a common criminal.
But there was something in Ka Randy that made him stand out among the other prisoners. He stood there, his clenched fist raised, his bearings intact, his determination unflinching. He was happy to see family, friends and comrades from various organizations waiting for him and supporting his cause. He had been in detention since January in Leyte.
The Arroyo regime has been notorious for extrajudicial killings, abductions and now the filing of trumped up charges. Ka Randy’s case, and many others like it, should be vigorously protested. Everyone knows who should really be put behind bars.