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January 30, 2008

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Stop Political Persecution! Free Randall Echanis!

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance and the Alyansa dagiti Pesante iti Taeng Kordilyera, (APIT TAKO) strongly condemn the unlawful arrest and detention of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Deputy Secretary General for External Affairs and veteran peasant leader Randall "Ka Randy" Echanis yesterday in Bago City, Negros Occidental, where he was attending a conference on genuine agrarian reform in preparation for the National Rural Congress (NRC) being called for by the Catholic Bishops Conference in the Philippines (CBCP) this July. The conference hall was surrounded by a platoon size formation of the police led by Inspectors Dinsing and Dehocos at around 2PM on January 29. The police were in civilian clothes and are wearing bonnets, like those worn by the death squads of the regime. They disrupted the conference and harassed the participants.

Echanis was arrested on the basis of trumped up charges. The warrant of arrest used is the same warrant issued by the Department of Justice (DoJ) against Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo in April 2007 on the Leyte multiple murder case. Later, Echanis and Ocampo proved they were both in prison when the alleged crimes took place.

This development clearly illustrates the relentless undertaking of the Arroyo regime, now through the term extension of AFP Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon in pursuing its pronouncement to silence the critics of the regime, particularly charging them with criminal cases in the futile effort to justify their persecution.

Ka Randy was always supportive to the issues and struggles of Cordillera indigenous peasants. He has joined us in our campaigns for the recognition of our right to self determination, and was with us during Cordillera Day celebrations in 1998 and 2003 which took place in his home provinces of Abra and Ilocos Sur, respectively.

Grave intents
The arrest of Ka Randy is clearly politically motivated and is part of the Arroyo regime and the AFP's all-out plan to heighten its offensive against the revolutionary New People's Army (NPA), including legal Left organizations. With the Oplan Bantay Laya I and II carried out to implement the regime's war on terror and "anti-insurgency" campaign, the extrajudicial killings have reached an alarming state (over 800 since 2001).

Now, with the Human Security Act and the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), which is still part of the OBL, such violations to our human rights have become institutionalized into the legal system and are made justifiable by the State as the perpetrator of human rights.

We cannot allow more of these events to take place, nor can we allow more untoward developments to happen. We must step up our vigilance and not let down our guard against the atrocities of this militarist regime. We must strengthen our resolve in this struggle for peace, justice and recognition of our human rights. #

Beverly L. Longid
Cordillera Peoples Alliance

Norma Mo-oy
Deputy Secretary General


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