“SC order holds me hostage in peace talks,” says peasant leader

August 6, 2016

Unacceptable, NDF consultant Echanis says on SC restrictions

By KMP

A peasant leader and consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) today said that he is being “held hostage” by a Supreme Court decision in the peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH).

Randall Echanis, NDF consultant and member of its Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) said that “the Supreme Court decision wants to make it appear that I am still in detention by putting up restrictions on my freedom.”

“With the limitations and conditions set by the Supreme Court, it appears that I am being held hostage while participating in the peace talks as consultant for the NDFP,” says Echanis who is also the deputy secretary general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) adding: “The SC order could have implications on the negotiations and can be construed as bad faith on the part of the GPH.”

“The SC’s order is totally unacceptable. It commands my transfer from the Camp Crame Detention Center to the higher and restrictive prison walls of the GPH’s judicial system,” Echanis added.

Echanis statement was issued after the high court said their (Echanis and Vicente Ladlad) provisional liberty shall only be for the purpose of their participation in the formal peace negotiations this month up to six months, or as soon as the peace negotiations are concluded or terminated, whichever is earlier.

“Once their participation ceases or the peace negotiations are terminated, their respective bonds shall be deemed automatically canceled,” said the SC resolution.

The high court said their provisional liberty shall continue to be secured by a P100,000 cash bond that is already posted with the Office of the Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court. It also required the two to provide Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 32, their contact details in the Philippines and in Norway, and report to the Embassy whenever required.

Echanis said that “since 1998, or even before my illegal arrest due to the fabricated charges filed against my person by the GPH in 2007, I am working in the legal arena by helping impoverished farmers in defending their rights to the land as deputy secretary general of KMP. During my arrest in 2008, I am participating in the peace negotiations, a clear violation of the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG).”

“After my release in 2009, I participated and performed my duties in activities related to the peace talks. In 2010, I was elected as national chairperson of Anakpawis National Political Party and was nominated as its third nominee in the 2010, 2013, and 2016 party-list elections,” says Echanis.

The KMP leader called on the Supreme Court to reverse its decision and give higher importance on the peace negotiations by releasing all political prisoners.

“Instead of engaging in continuing political maneuvers, we urge the Supreme Court and the Duterte government to give paramount importance to the peace negotiations. Addressing the roots of war – the continuing landlessness, poverty, and hunger suffered by farmers – in a negotiated political settlement is a big leap towards fundamental change,” says Echanis. ###