Progressive groups call for release of Amanda Echanis, month-old baby
MANILA, Philippines — Progressive groups on Thursday condemned the arrest of Amanda Echanis and called for her immediate release, saying that her case is reminiscent of what happened to another political activist, Reina Mae Nasino, and her newborn baby, River.
Echanis is the daughter of slain National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant and Anakpawis national chairperson Randall “Randy” Echanis. The 32-year-old activist was arrested by Cagayan police for possession of an M-16 assault rifle, a magazine, two hand grenades, and ammunition.
Amihan, an organization of peasant women and federation of peasant women organizations, called for Echanis’ release under humanitarian grounds, citing the welfare of her month-old baby, who is currently in jail with her.
“Ayaw namin matulad ang kaso ng baby ni Amanda sa nangyari kay Baby River,” Cathy Estavillo, Secretary-General of Amihan, said in a press conference.
(We do not want the case of Amanda’s baby to be like what happened to baby River.)
“Kami ay talagang kokondenahin ang patuloy na pagiipit at patuloy na pagkulong kay Amanda, kasama ang kanyang baby. Gagawin namin lahat na kaparaanan para kagyat na mapalaya si Amanda kasama ang kanyang baby,” she added.
(We condemn the continued harassment and continued detention of Amanda, along with her baby. We will do everything we can to immediately release Amanda and her baby.)
Estavillo said that they will appeal Echanis’ case to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate what they described as state-sponsored violence against Amanda and her child.
She also said they will coordinate with the Gabriela Women’s Party to file a House resolution to investigate the case.
Diapers, not weapons
“There is no way that she was capable of possessing those high-powered firearms contrary to the search warrant issued by the authorities against her,” Anakpawis said Thursday on Twitter.
“Amanda carried no weapons and ammunition but baby essentials such as bibs, diapers, and nursing bottles. Release her now!” it added.
The group claimed it is impossible for Echanis to be guilty of the charges as she was still recovering from childbirth.
“How can Amanda, recovering from postpartum, and moreover, breastfeeding her one-month old child, possess firearms and explosives?” the group said.
Meanwhile, former Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said the arrest was a repercussion of constant red tagging.
“Malinaw po na tuloy-tuloy na pagta-tag kay Amanda Echanis, bilang anak ni Randy Echanis ay isinama doon sa mga usapin na mga komunista o ng mga NPA. Ngayon ay nakakulong kasama ang one-month-old na anak ni Amanda,” said Casilao.
(It is clear they continuously red-tagged Amanda Echanis and, as the son of Randy Echanis, she was included in communist or NPA issues. Now, Amanda’s locked up with her one-month-old son)
“Hindi pa nga ito na-rehistro dahil nung kapapanganak pa lamang ay tumama na ang mga bagyo,” he added.
(The baby hasn’t even been registered yet because the typhoons affected them just after he was born.)
Casilao also narrated that when authorities raided the house of Echanis, the actual target was Anakpawis regional coordinator Isabelo “Buting” Adviento.
Adviento, however, wasn’t home when the incident happened.
According to Casilao, Echanis said that she was staying in her home just three houses away from Adviento’s house when the police raided her residence without a search warrant nor a warrant of arrest, at 3:30 in the morning.
Barangay officials then arrived five hours later.
“May limang oras po na nanatili na nasa loob ng mga bahay at kwarto ang mga militar, para sapat na panahon na magtanim ng mga armas at explosibo,” said Casilao.
(The military remained in the houses and rooms for five hours, leaving enough time for them to plant weapons and explosives.)
Adviento, meanwhile, said that his wife told him occupants including children were asked to step out when their home was raided at 3:30 a.m.
He said that his wife later asked to come inside to get hot water for coffee when she saw a plastic by the sofa, which wasn’t there before.
After the initial raid, personnel of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) later arrived at around 6 to 7 a.m. with a search warrant and raided the place again where they found firearms and explosives inside a plastic.
Adviento said that he fears his arrest may come eventually.
During the search on Echanis’ house, police later said that they were able to recover an M16 rifle, ammunition, and two hand grenades during the arrest of Echanis, which is belied by Anakpawis.
“Very illogical and against sa anumang human logic. May bata, anak ka na na one-month old, maglalagay ka ba ng mga armas, granada na ikakapahamak ng iyong anak at ng iyong sarili?” Casilao said.
(It is very illogical and against any human logic. You have a child, a one-month old child, will you put up weapons, a grenade that can harm your child and yourself?)
Casilao also likened Echanis’ case to Nasino’s when authorities accused her of carrying illegal weapons when they raided her home.
“Hindi na bago ang ganitong script, na ginagawa ng militar at kapulisan. Mas tumindi ito sa panahon na pinatindi ng National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC)… Ngayon pa lang sinasabi namin, illegal na pag-aresto ito kay Amanda Echavis,” said Casilao.
(This script, which is being done by the military and the police, is not new. This just got worse during the intensification of the NTF-ELCAC… This arrest of Amanda Echavis is illegal.)
“Ang ginawang pag-raid sa bahay ni kasamang Buting ay bahagi ng mahabang plano ng red-tagging, harassment, and eventual arrest and detention, and worst, physical elimination,” he further said.
(The raid on the house of our comrade Buting is part of a long-term plan on red-tagging, harassment, and eventual arrest and detention, and worst, physical elimination.)
According to Atty. Maria Sol, legal counsel of rights group Karapatan, there should be one warrant for every house to be searched.
She said however, that Echanis wasn’t shown a warrant before the police conducted the search and her arrest.
“Ano ba ang contempt ng government na ito sa mga babae? Sa mga ina? Sa mga sanggol?… Eto na lang ba ang kaya nating tugisin?” Sol said.
(What is this contempt of this government on women? To mothers? To babies? Are they all they can target?)
Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay promised that the group will work with the family and the organizations supporting Amanda Echanis and her baby’s fight for freedom and innocence. — Zac Sarao and Miggy Dumlao, Trainees
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