CHR says alleged snatching of Echanis’ body an issue of respect for human dignity
MANILA, Philippines — The supposed seizure of a slain peace consultant’s remains from its family and colleagues touches on the issue of whether the government has respect for human dignity despite differences in political affiliation.
This was the assessment of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on allegations that Quezon City Police District (QCPD) officers forcibly took the body of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Randy Echanis despite his wife positively identifying the cadaver.
According to CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia, the commission has started investigating the issue to find out whether the allegations are true.
“[CHR] expresses deep concern on reports that Randall ‘Randy’ Echanis remains, said to be a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines were allegedly taken by police officers of the Quezon City Police District – La Loma Police Station from a funeral parlor after learning the identity of the body retrieved from a crime scene,” De Guia said in a statement.
“CHR has already launched an investigation on the mentioned case to help bring truth to these allegations. And whoever is responsible for these indignities, we call on the government to act with urgency and seriousness in holding perpetrators to account in line with this administration’s promise that it will not dodge its obligations when it comes to human rights,” she added.
The issue of Echanis’ body allegedly being seized by police officers started after his wife said that police took it on Monday night from them after they transferred it to a funeral parlor they preferred.
On the side of the QCPD, Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (CIDU) chief Maj. Elmer Monsalve earlier said that the police officers took the cadaver because there was no permit to release it.
Monsalve said Anakpawis — which Echanis was a chairperson of — obtained the body without notifying CIDU, despite the funeral parlor telling them that authorities must first be informed of any decision.
Echanis and another person named Louie Tagapia were found dead in an apartment in Novaliches, Quezon City on Monday morning. While activist groups and human rights circles described it as an “extra-judicial killing,” police said they were looking at robbery and personal grudge as motives.
However, confusion ensued when QCPD identified Echanis as Manuel Santiago, based on the identification cards bearing the victim’s photo and the name he used in transacting with the landlord.
QCPD also disputed notions that the killing was perpetrated by police officers, noting that policemen were only dispatched to the scene after the apartment owner reported the incident.
CHR also urged government itself to probe the incident as death of victims does not remove liability from those responsible for the incident — reminding the administration of its role to protect human rights.
This comes as President Rodrigo Duterte assured in his last State of the Nation Address that the government would not escape its responsibility to uphold human rights.
“Despite the termination of life, CHR reminds the government that such condition does not extinguish the government’s obligation to investigate violations and ensure that further injustices are prevented,” De Guia said.
“The government, after all, remains to be the primary duty-bearer of the obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of all—without discriminating based on religion, social status, political affiliation, nor any identifier aside from a person’s humanity,” she added.[ac]
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