DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro Diocese Antonio Ledesma joined other church leaders condemning the killing of peasant leader and peace consultant Randall Echanis.
Ledesma is co-chairperson of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), a group of Catholic and Protestant churches that engages both government and the National Democratic Front on issues regarding the peace talks
In their statement, Ledesma and other PEPP leaders remember Echanis’ contributions in their regional consultations. Echanis was their resource person speaking as vice-chair on the NDF’s Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms.
“As a consultant in the peace process, he was a frequent resource person during the many regional consultations of the PEPP on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms. He shared his knowledge and passion for what he termed as genuine agrarian reform as a key component for just and lasting peace,” the statement said.
The PEPP expresses “utmost shock” and condemnation on the fate of Echanis, age 72, who was killed on the wee hours of August 10 inside his apartment, and his body was held by police for three days before releasing it to the family on Thursday.
“We are deeply saddened that his murder comes a few weeks after the death of the NDFP peace panel chair, Fidel Agcaoili. Both are great losses for the peace process. He is also the second NDFP Consultant killed under the present administration. Randy Malayao was the first, whose murder early last year remains unsolved,” their statement added.
The peace talks between the government and the left had been on and off for decades. Last 2016, Duterte revived the talks in which socio-economic reforms were the main agenda. The agrarian reform component was about to be signed when Duterte called off the talks in late 2017.
The group called for an independent investigation on the killing of the peace consultant.
“As church leaders working for just and enduring peace, we demand an immediate impartial investigation by the Commission on Human Rights on the tragic killing of Ka Randall Echanis and we pray that justice is served.”
They also reiterated the call to resume the peace talks.
“We also repeat our call for the resumption of the formal Peace Talks between the GRP and NDFP in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration and all other prior agreements to address the roots of armed conflict. In a time of great uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic, peace should be the balm to heal our land (cf. Jeremiah 8:22) and we must tirelessly seek and pursue it. (cf. 1 Peter 3:11).”
The statement was signed by Ledesma and Bishop Rex Reyes, co-chairpersons of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, and also signed by representatives of three Christian formations Bishop Reuel Marigza, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines; Reverend Dr. Aldrin Penamora, Director, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches Commission on Justice, Peace & Reconciliation; Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines Women. (davatoday.com)