Philippines - Ranking Red exec named party-list third nominee
The Anakpawis party-list announced on Monday that it was adding the name of Randall Echanis, a political consultant of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF), as its third nominee, a move which observers say could hasten the integration of the extreme left into the political mainstream.
Echanis, also the secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), joined eight other nominees as Anakpawis representatives, led by fellow militant leaders Fernando Hicap and Joel Manglungsod.
Hicap is the chairperson of Pamalakaya, an alliance of activist fisherfolks, while Manglungsod represented Anakpawis in the 15th Congress (2010).
Pamalakaya and Anakpawis are two of several organizations under the umbrella of the NDF, a coalition of "progressive" social and economic justice organizations, agricultural unions, trade unions, indigenous rights groups, leftist political parties, and other related groups.
Other groups under the NDF which had successfully entered mainstream politics through the partylist system include the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), Anakbayan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or BAYAN, Bayan Muna, KMP, Gabriela, Kabataan and the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap or Kadamay (Kadamay).
As this developed, the military reported that four army soldiers from the 43rd Infantry Battalion, 8th Infantry Division (8ID) in Samar were killed in an armed encounter against elements of the New People's Army (NPA) over the weekend.
Capt. Gene R. Orense, chief of Division Public Affairs Office, said the encounter happened in the vicinity of Brgy. Ramon, Gandara.
Orense said the soldiers were members of the 'Bayanihan Teams' performing peace and development activities in close coordination and collaboration with the local government unit.
He identified the slain soldiers as Sgt. Ruel Aranquel of Tagadtaraqn, Burauen, Leyte, Pfc. Ruben Gajes of Katarungan, Ubay, Bohol, Pfc. Narciso Pabunan of Lokilokon, Paranas, Samar and Pfc. Joey Panoy of Geratag, San Jose, Northern Samar.
The gunfire, which lasted for about 30 minutes, wounded two other government troops while an undetermined number of casualties were recorded on the NPA side, according to Orense.
Despite these developments, Malacanang said it welcomes the participation of Echanis in the political exercise.
"We have always maintained that a non-violent participation in the political mainstream would certainly be welcome from whatever sector you come from - whether from the extreme right or from the extreme left," presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
"Because you acknowledge the legitimacy of the process, you acknowledge the existing laws and therefore, any participation from previous rebels identified with either extreme left or extreme right would certainly be welcome to us," Lacierda added.
Clarita Santos, the executive director of the Center for Political and Democratic Reforms and a full-time professor at the University of the Philippines, said there was nothing extraordinary of militant groups joining the electoral process.
"That is how democracy works - we allow all colors to participate, whether red or yellow or other colors. We allow all voices to be heard and we let the electorate decide," Carlos said.
Government chief negotiator Alexander Padilla, a lawyer, said there was no legal impediment to the congressional bid of Echanis, even as Philippine Army spokesman Maj. Harold Cabunoc said it was better for other insurgents to follow Echanis' example and join the political exercise instead of fighting the government.
"This might be even better for him... Legally there is nothing that bars him from running," Padilla said.
"We welcome such endeavor," Cabunoc. "We respect his aspirations for a political position which is part of the democratic process.
Cabunoc also urged other insurgents to participate in the electoral process and abandon the armed struggle.
In 2008, the military arrested Echanis, who had a P5 million bounty on his head, for his reported involvement in the killing of 67 people during an alleged internal purge within the New People's Army in Inopacan, Leyte more than two decades ago.
The CPP-NDF invoked the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees to seek his release as a political consultant to the peace process.
Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said Echanis was never convicted of the "trumped up charges" leveled against him by the administration of then President Gloria Arroyo.
"Those charges are not true. They were part of the political repression of the past administration," Mariano. He (Echanis) has never advocated violence.
Echanis was eventually released in August 2009 through the Jasig mechanism but the multiple-murder charges against him were not extinguished.
Mariano said his group is still waiting for the Comelec to accredit his group.
"But I am confident we will be accredited again because there is no doubt that we really represent marginalized sectors."
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