Its latest victim is Amanda Echanis, an organizer under the Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women and daughter of slain National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant and Anakpawis chairman Randy Echanis. “Amanda Lacaba Echanis was illegally arrested, along with her one-month-old son, by combined elements of the military and police in Brgy. Carupian, Baggao, Cagayan, at 3:30 am on Dec. 2. She was charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition and illegal possession of explosives,” reported Anakpawis. “The illegal arrest coincided with the raid on the house of Anakpawis Cagayan Valley chairman Isabelo ‘Buting’ Adviento.”
URGENT ALERT — Peasant women organizer in Cagayan, and the daughter of slain Anakpawis Chairman Randall “Ka Randy”…
Today, a joint press conference was held with representatives from Anakpawis, Amihan, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Karapatan Alliance Philippines Inc. Ayik Casilao of Anakpawis said in an opening statement, “Ang ginawang raid sa bahay ni Kasamang Buting ay bahagi ng mahabang plano ng red-tagging, harassment and eventual arrest and detention. And worst, physical elimination. Kaya panawagan po naming mahigpit [ay] kagyat na palayain si Amanda Echanis at ang kanyang anak na one-month-old. Itigil ang tuloy-tuloy na pag-atake sa mga legal [at] progresibo na mga organisasyon sa Cagayan Valley at sa buong bansa tulad ng Anakpawis, KMP, Amihan at iba pang mga organisasyon na kritiko ng kasalukuyang gobyerno.”
Adviento alleged that before Dec. 2, uniformed officers have been keeping a watchful eye on him and his colleagues while they were working in the fields to repair damage from recent typhoons and to provide aid. He said that based on his wife’s account of what took place, military personnel allegedly broke down their door and started searching the house. His family was forced to leave the premises and stand in the cold outside. His wife decided to try entering the house to heat some water so they could have a drink to warm the children. There she saw two bags placed in their living room. She kicked a bag and found that it was heavy. Fearing the worst, she told the officers that they shouldn’t plant evidence in their house. An officer warned that if she continues to make these claims, they would handcuff her.
Adviento adds that it wasn’t until 6:00 or 7:00 am that the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) arrived with a search warrant with his name on it, hours after the raid had been conducted. Meanwhile, Atty. Cristina ‘Tinay’ Palabay of Karapatan stated that Echanis was arrested while she and her baby were sleeping. Atty. Maria Sol Taule, also from Karapatan, added that the group has yet to see a copy of the search warrant for Echanis.
According to Taule, the group has taken on many similar cases where an arrest and raid were made without a warrant. She said that victims were forced to lie on the floor blindfolded while evidence was planted in their homes.
Asked whether the groups thought Amanda Echanis’ arrest was connected to her ties with Randy Echanis, Casilao said that Echanis belonged to a family of activists who fought against the Martial Law dictatorship. While her father dedicated half his life to helping pass the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), Amanda became a peasant organizer in Cagayan Valley.
We join the groups’ call for the release of all political prisoners, including Echanis. Activism is not terrorism. We have the right to fight for our rights.
Erratum: In a previous version of the article, we mistakenly reported that Isabelo Adviento was also a political prisoner alongside Amanda Echanis. We have since amended the statement.