MANILA - lt was a rainy Sunday night when "Martin" (not his real name) heard loud "shouting" from an apartment near their house in Petronia Street, Novaliches, Quezon City.
Bothered by the sound, he and his cousins took a peek and saw a large removable folding ladder mounted to an apartment building near their house.
"May hagdanan, tapos may sumisigaw na lalaking parang tino-torture. Hinala po namin may tino-torture. May pinapatay na po pala," Martin told ABS-CBN News.
The sound came from house no. 14, where Anakpawis chairperson and National Democratic Front peace talks consultant Randy Echanis and another man named Louie Tagapia were later found dead.
"Noong una, may kumalampag. Nakita ko na lang, may naglalakad, naka sumbrero. Di ko pinansin. Tapos ayun may sumisigaw na. Nagmamakaawa po, umiiyak, sumisigaw," Martin said.
Martin said he did not personally know Echanis.
On that same night, he said an SUV was parked on across the street. That same SUV roamed around Petronia Street for about a month, according to the witness.
"Kasi may kotseng Innova, mag-iisang buwan nagmamasid sa Petronia," Martin said.
That night, the lights in the two lamp posts nearest to Echanis' apartment were suspiciously dysfunctional.
"Natakot kami. Hindi kami nakatulog kasi nandiyan lang kami," Martin said.
Two more witnesses, who refused to be identified, said they saw at least six masked men in the compound. A lady said she heard loud, repeated, thumping sounds from Echanis' apartment.
Echanis and Tagapia lived separately on adjacent rooms at the top of the apartment building, but it was only Tagapia who was more well-known in the neighborhood.
"Si Tagapia yung taga pamalengke sa kanila kasi nakakalabas siya sa quarantine," said one witness, adding they barely saw Echanis in the compound, and that they had no idea who he was until news of his death came out.
"Bagong lipat lang siya (Echanis) diyan, hindi namin madalas makita," the other one said.
All witnesses said the sounds and shouting lasted less than an hour before the masked perpetrators left the site at around 1:45 a.m. on Monday.
They said a neighbor living in the same compound checked on Echanis and Tagapia, and found them dead.
The barangay officials and police operatives showed up on the scene hours after.
A witness said the bodies were finally removed from the crime scene at past 4 a.m.
News reporters found it odd after no information about the killing came out that time. Policemen from QCPD Station 4, who had jurisdiction in the crime scene, would usually give information to media when slayings like this happen.
Echanis' gruesome death was widely condemned by militant groups and human rights advocates.
His body is currently under custody of the Pink Petals Memorial Homes.