Randall 'Randy' Echanis is seen here in this file photo. The labor and land reform activist was shot and stabbed by unidentified assailants on Aug. 10 in Manila. (Photo supplied)
A Catholic bishop in the Philippines has denounced the murder of a 72-year-old labor leader allegedly tortured, stabbed and shot by at least five unidentified men in Manila on Aug. 10.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos in the central Visayas region called the killing of peasant leader Randall “Randy” Echanis “a clear mark of the shameless immorality” in the Philippines.
Eyewitnesses said unidentified men grabbed Echanis outside his apartment in Quezon City, Manila, and bundled him into a vehicle before he was found dead, but other reports said he was murdered in his home.
Prior to the killing, Echanis had reportedly received anonymous death threats, forcing him to adopt an alias that initially raised questions over the dead man’s identity.
Bishop Alminaza urged churchgoers to cry for justice for Echanis, who championed the causes of farmers seeking land reform.
“I add my pastoral voice to the common cry: Justice for Ka Randy. Let us put an end to all these extrajudicial killings where perpetrators go unpunished. The government advocates for the death penalty, yet many crimes like this are still unresolved,” Bishop Alminaza said in a statement.
Echanis was also a peace consultant of leftist party the National Democratic Front and sought reforms and rural development during government peace talks with communist rebels.
He also drafted the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, a proposed law that sought the emancipation of tenants and an end to the monopoly on land ownership by the country’s elite and foreign control of land.
Bishop Alminaza said Filipino Catholics should never get tired of fighting for justice, not just over land but also extrajudicial killings.
“We should never be afraid to confront injustice and continue our cry in the name of the landless farmers. We will never stop confronting this violent regime,” Bishop Alminaza added.
Anakpawis, a political party representing the poor, of which Echanis was chairman, claimed “police forces” raided Echanis’ apartment. It also claimed Echanis was tortured before he was killed.
Bishop Alminaza said if this were true, the policemen should be haunted by their conscience. He urged them to stop a culture of violence that he said was gripping the country during the pandemic.
“Has coronavirus not killed enough of our countrymen? Has the pandemic already claimed many Filipino lives? Let us stop all these killings. We should all be united to fight the real enemy. Let us remove the culture of hate and death in this country,” Bishop Alminiza told UCA News.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Aug. 11 that his department would form a task force to investigate Echanis’ death.