Not only was he illegally arrested, detained and mistaken for somebody else, Rolly Panesa was even tortured to admit that he is allegedly the communist leader Benjamin Mendoza. Yet, his government-issued IDs – one was issued by the Philippine National Police – showed he is not who the military claims him to be.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Marites Chioco, 44, still could not believe what happened to her partner, Rolly Panesa.
Shortly before midnight of October 5, Panesa, Chioco, Chioco’s daughter Connie Rey Garcia and her husband Peter Que were on their way to Panesa’s house in Project 4, Quezon City when men in plainclothes forced them into two vehicles. Chioco said the men introduced themselves as policemen. She, Garcia and Que were on the same vehicle. Panesa, separated from the three, was on the other vehicle. They traveled for two hours until they reached their destination.
Chioco said the men who interviewed her insisted that she is Ka Luisa and her husband is Benjamin Mendoza, alleged high-ranking leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). “I told them I am Maritess Chioco, a native of San Jose City, Nueva Ecija. My partner’s name is Rolly Panesa, not Benjamin Mendoza,” Chioco told the media in a press conference, October 17.
Chioco later learned that they were brought to Camp Vicente Lim in Canlubang, Calamba. When Chioco saw Panesa the next day, she said she was shocked at his appearance. “I could not bear seeing him like that,” Chioco said, holding back her tears. “His face was bloated, blood dripping from his ears, his lips broken.”
The medico-legal report conducted by the crime laboratory of the Philippine National Police-Region 4 and the independent medical examination done by the Health Action for Human Rights (HAHR) showed that Panesa had bruises and scratches. There was a blood clot in his right ear. Both doctors who examined him recommended that he should immediately see an ENT specialist. ENT (ear, nose, throat) or otolaryngology is the branch of medicine and surgery that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the head and neck.
The day after their arrest, Armed Forces of the Philippines Southern Luzon Command spokesman, Colonel Generoso Bolina, announced that they arrested two high-ranking CPP officials and two companions, according to a Sunstar report. The military officer identified one of those arrested as Benjamin Mendoza, alias Lorens, Kenji, and Dave, the alleged secretary of the Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee and member of the CPP’s Central Committee. The other one was identified as Josephine Mendoza, an alleged member of the Executive Committee of the Southern Regional Party Committee. Bolina said the government has raised a P5.6 million ($133 thousand) reward for the capture of Mendoza.
Chioco said the interrogators repeatedly asked her to admit that she is Ka Luisa and Panesa is Benjamin Mendoza. Chioco insisted that Panesa is a security guard hired by Megaforce Security Service Inc. He is assigned at the APC Compound in Libis, Bagumbayan, Quezon City. She also said they have been living together for more than ten years and the only time they would be apart was when Panesa would be on duty.
On October 6, she was told that she and the two others, except Panesa, were to be released. Confident of the truth, Chioco even told their captors that she would bring all their documents of identification to the camp.
When she arrived at their house in Project 4, Quezon City on Oct. 8, Chioco said, she almost fell on her knees. “All our belongings were in disarray,” she said. She looked for the envelope containing all their important documents, it was gone.
Ephraim Cortez, lawyer of Panesa and an officer of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said that at the time of the arrest, Panesa had with him three government-issued identification (ID) cards – his driver’s license, Social Security System (SSS) ID and one issued by the Philippine National Police’s Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies (Sosia).
“It would have been easy for the arresting team to validate and verify his identity,” Cortez said. “A phone call to Sosia would reveal that Panesa has been with Megaforce since 1995.”
Cortez claimed that the authorities had no intention of verifying the identity of Panesa.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights alliance Karapatan, said “the military is like a dog gone mad, biting anyone that comes its way.” She said that while the military claims that “Benjamin Mendoza” was already a leader of the Samahan ng mga Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK) in 1975, Panesa was only 11 years old, studying at the Macabal-ong (now Martina Quiachon) Elementary School in Cadiz City at the time.
Palabay added that while the military claimed that “Benjamin Mendoza” studied “Commando Operation, Heavy Weapon Operation, bomb making and sniping” in Libya from 1981 to 1982; Panesa was in Cadiz City and was, on and off, enrolled at the Faron Institute as a high school student, while helping his parents in farm work.
Palabay deemed that the motivation for the arrest was the P5.6 million-reward. “No less than the military mentioned the bounty after the arrest of Panesa,” Palabay said.
Pedro Gonzales, spokesman of Save Bondoc Peninsula, also accused the military of “making money at the expense of an innocent person.” Gonzales said he saw Panesa while he was visiting a political prisoner at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
Panesa was transferred to the said detention facility on October 8 at around 4 p.m. He was charged with rebellion and frustrated murder.
Cortez said the authorities are liable for violating the Anti-Torture Law and the Republic Act 7438 or the Rights of Persons Arrested, Detained or Under Custodial Investigation.
From the time of the arrest until late afternoon of October 8, Panesa was handcuffed and blindfolded, Cortez said. In fact, the lawyer said the jail administration of the Camp Bagong Diwa initially refused to take Panesa into custody until he was subjected to medical examination. “He was black-and-blue when he was taken there,” Cortez said.
Only then was Panesa brought to the Rizal Medical Center for checkup.
Based on a fact sheet prepared by Karapatan, Panesa said he was severely beaten while he was being forced to admit that he is Benjamin Mendoza. He was also injected with an unknown drug on both arms. When he asked what it was, the men said it was for asthma but Panesa said he has no asthma.
Cortez added that Panesa and Chioco, for that matter, were interrogated without lawyers.
Palabay related that on October 5, a lawyer, together with members of Karapatan, went to Camp Vicente Lim to check on the arrested individuals but were denied entry.
Cortez said the authorities did not present any warrant of arrest, violating the rights of the victims to due process.
“The biggest violation, however, is the fact that the authorities arrested the wrong person,” Cortez said.
Gonzales of the Save Bondoc Peninsula said no one should be subjected to torture, even those who are suspected to be communist leaders or members.
“The AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] claims they uphold human rights and they denounce torture,” Gonzales said. “This case, as well as many others, belies such claims.”
Under the Aquino administration, Karapatan documented 70 victims of torture and 447 victims of illegal arrest.
“Torture, illegal arrests and detention are nothing new in the conduct of Oplan Bayanihan, the military’s counterinsurgency program, under the Noynoy Aquino government,” Palabay said.
“Justice should be rendered to Panesa and his family, for all the grave violations on their rights. In fact, regardless of identities of persons, including ‘Benjamin Mendoza’, no one should be subjected to such deplorable and gross violations of human rights,” Palabay said.