POLICE on Tuesday, August 11, 2020, arrested a paralegal amid its investigation into the reported killing of Anakpawis Party-list chairman and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Randall Echanis.
Paolo Colabres, a paralegal staff of Anakpawis, was arrested for obstruction of justice after he took custody of the remains of Echanis.
Police claimed that the person who reported killed in his rented home before dawn Monday, August 10, was not Echanis, but a certain Manuel Santiago based on identification cards recovered from the crime scene and the statement of the landlady.
Quezon City Police District (QCPD) Director Ronnie Montejo said Colabres had claimed to be a relative of Echanis and took custody of the remains, transporting these from Pink Petals Funeral Homes in La Loma to St. Peter’s Chapel, the funeral home chosen by the Echanis family, Monday evening.
Montejo said they took custody of the body again and brought it back to Pink Petals because they have not completed the investigation into the incident.
Police said the person killed on August 10 was not Echanis, as claimed by Anakpawis.
In a report on Monday afternoon, the QCPD identified the two persons killed in a rented house in Novaliches as Louie Tagapia, 48 and Manuel Santiago, based on the identification cards recovered from the scene.
Tagapia and Santiago were found with multiple stab wounds.
Erlinda Echanis, wife of the Anakpawis leader, said Santiago was actually Echanis.
In a statement, Erlinda said her husband’s body bore torture marks, multiple stabs and gunshot wounds.
Montejo, however, insisted that the person killed was Santiago.
“Manuel Santiago talaga ang pagkakilala sa kanya ng may-ari eh (ng bahay). Tinanong namin kung si Randy Echanis. Sabi n’ya, ‘ay hindi ang pakilala sa amin noong umupa dito’. Nag-issue nga sya ng statement na Manuel talaga yun,” said Montejo.
He brushed off allegations that policemen were behind the killing or that it was a raid conducted by the police.
“Malayo eh, kasi wala namang pulis na pumapatay na saksak eh. Ano’ng ginagawa n’ya sa baril n’ya? Eh lalapitan pa nya? Eh, ‘di lalo s’yang delikado,” said Montejo.
He said investigators were looking at robbery or personal grudge as motives because Tagapia was an alleged member of the Sputnik Gang and had just been released from detention over illegal drugs charges.
Montejo said they encouraged the family of the deceased to coordinate with them to shed light on the matter.
“’Yung mga kamag anak n’ya ay ini-encourage din natin na pumunta sa CIDU (Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit) para mag-issue ng statement. Eh wala pa rin dumating kaya hangga’t wala pa, doon muna kami sa na-recover na ID at do’n sa sinabi ng may-ari ng bahay,” he said.
In a television interview, QCPD spokesperson Lieutenant Johanna Sazon said the identity of the remains should be proven through DNA and fingerprint test.
Meanwhile, Karapatan legal counsel Maria Sol Taule said Colabres had presented a special power of attorney to take custody of the remains.
“They are claiming legally the right to recover the body para i-turn over doon sa pamilya ang they have the authority because they have the special power of attorney na dala-dala noong time na ‘yun together with the lawyer,” she said. (Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo/SunStar Philippines)