Body of slain activist illegally retrieved by police from funeral home: lawyer

Jervis Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 11 2020 02:02 AM

MANILA - The remains of slain activist leader and peace consultant Randy Echanis were "illegally retrieved" by Quezon City police from a funeral home, his family's lawyer said Monday.

Echanis' remains were earlier brought by his family to St. Peter's Chapels in Quezon Avenue for processing, but much to the family and camp's surprise, uniformed men arrived at the scene to "retrieve" the body.

The legal counsel of Echanis' family said the remains have been already cleared for release by the Pink Petals Memorial Homes, where the body was initially brought for police investigation.

In addition, the camp said a physician from Camp Crame also approved the release of the cadaver, and that they secured approval from the Quezon City Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit for an external investigation.

The remains were transferred back by policemen to the Pink Petals Memorial Homes in La Loma "for further investigation".

The 72-year-old activist was found dead inside an apartment in Novaliches, Quezon City early Monday morning. His death certificate indicates that gunshot wounds in the head were the main cause of his death.

There was initial confusion because of an ID in the crime scene that identified the victim as "Manuel Santiago". 

In an earlier press conference, QCPD Police chief Ronnie Montejo claimed that it was not Echanis who was found dead in the apartment.

The wife and the Anakpawis camp have positively identified the body as Echanis himself.

Lawyer Luz Perez said this is "clear harassment" because the policemen didn't have court order, and that Echanis wasn't a detainee at the time of death.

"Gusto lang nilang patunayan na meron silang hold over the body of the deceased. This is pure harassment," Perez said.

Erlinda Echanis, the wife of slain victim, pleaded to policemen to hastily release her husband's remains.

"Nakikiusap po kami sa mga pulis na irelease na po ang labi ng aking asawa para maiburol po namin ng maayos," she told ABS-CBN News.

Anakpawis and other several militant groups have condemned the killing. 

Anakpawis leader Ariel Casilao earlier said they suspect that state agents were behind the killing of the peace consultant. 

In April, activist leader Jory Porquia was also killed in Iloilo.

Edre Olalia, legal consultant of the National Democratic Front Negotiating Panel, blasted the QCPD's statement that it was not Echanis who was found dead when his family already confirmed it was him.

"Unless Randy has a doppelganger, an identical twin or is a reincarnation of Houdini, the police investigators should prove they deserve the fat salaries they have with their insistence that the NDFP political consultant is not one of the victims of the gruesome murder," Olalia said in a statement.

"Concluding instantly and accepting publicly that one of the dead bodies is a certain Manuel Santiago based solely on an ID that was allegedly found in the crime scene, is either naïveté, laziness or plain incompetence."

Olalia said that the police "surely had a cache of pictures of him with all the interest on his person and activities and with all the funds for police trainings and seminars on police investigation and 'intelligence.'"

"And one look at his bloodied and bruised face leaves no room for any doubt, speculation, ambivalence or paucity of vision. Despite the curious divergence of the name and the photo in the ID. 
To accept this instantly as singular proof of identity in spite of all these is to say that an ID is equivalent to a DNA," he said.

Olalia mourned the death of the peace consultant, describing him as "low profile and unassuming, but a mass leader just the same."

"He has invariably appeared or spoken in many rallies in Quezon City and elsewhere. He was active and deeply involved in the formal and informal peace negotiations," he said.

The lawyer called on for an honest probe on Echanis' killing.

"We hope there is no attempt to muddle, confuse, deflect, distract or cover up. Nor scoff at the memory of a humble and honorable peacemaker. That would be callousness without compare."

The Anakpawis camp said Echanis' remains were set to undergo an autopsy at the Philippine General Hospital and at the Commission of Human Rights.