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Detained peasant leader Echanis back in Manila City Jail

September 11, 2008 5:59pm

MANILA, Philippines - Jailed peasant leader Randall Echanis may have to remain at the Manila City Jail for more or less 90 days.

This was after the Philippine National Police (PNP) asked the Manila regional trial court to reconsider its earlier decision ordering the transfer of Echanis from the Manila City Jail to the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.

Pending the ruling on the motion for reconsideration, the 60-year-old Echanis, deputy secretary general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), will have to remain at the Manila City Jail.

Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina of the Manila RTC Branch 32 is set to come up with a ruling within 90 days.

Medina ordered the transfer of Echanis to Camp Crame last August 28, but the PNP sent him back to Manila City Jail four days later, saying it is not them but the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) which is duty-bound to detain Echanis.

Lawyer Maridel Asadon, Manila RTC Branch 32 Clerk of Court, said the new jail warden of the MCJ has informed the Court through a letter that they can now accommodate Echanis upon asking augmentation from the Manila Police District (MPD).

“The new MCJ jail warden wrote saying Echanis can now be detained to their facility. The old jail warden had considered Echanis as a high-risk detainee so he wanted him back to the PNP," Asadon said in Filipino.

For this, Echanis’ counsel, Romeo Capulong, Echanis, threatened to file contempt charges against the PNP Custodial Center for refusing to comply with the order of the court.

Capulong insisted that Echanis should not be jailed at the Manila City Jail for health reasons. The militant leader is said to be afflicted with hypercholesterolemia and Bell's Palsy.

“His health is still bad at the moment. The court already issued an order transferring him to Camp Crame. But they refused it," Capulong said.

Echanis was among those charged for allegedly ordering the killing of New People’s Army cadres in 1985 as part of an alleged “purge" within the ranks of the communist movement in Leyte.

Charged with him are Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP) founder Jose Maria Sison, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Saturnino “Satur" Ocampo, and National Democratic Front of the Philippines negotiating panel chairman Luis Jalondoni.

Present during Thursday’s hearing to show support to Echanis were Senator Ana Consuelo “Jamby" Madrigal; Ocampo, who is out on bail; and some 30 members of the KMP.

Madrigal said she appeared at the hearing to lend support and to stop the illegal disappearances and political prosecution of peasant leaders by the Arroyo administration.
Supporters of Echanis were supposed to have a short program in front of the Manila City Hall but were prevented by policemen.

Echanis was arrested by policemen on January 28 in Bago City, Negros Occidental while reportedly meeting with members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers.

On July 3, the Supreme Court ordered the transfer of the trial of the case against Echanis and companions from Leyte to Manila, taking cognizance of the serious threats to the lives and safety of the witnesses. - GMANews.TV
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