“I knew I was beaten up because my eyes, lips and cheeks were swollen. There was blood in my ears.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Rolly Mira Panesa is trying to rebuild his life but he refused to just forgive and forget.
Panesa, a security guard, was mistaken for a communist leader and arrested by state security forces on October 5, 2012. Panesa, who the military accused as being alleged communist leader Benjamin Mendoza, was charged with rebellion and detained for almost 11 months at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.
On August 30, Panesa was released from prison after the Court of Appeals granted his habeas corpus petition and ruled that it was a case of mistaken identity.
This morning, Panesa, accompanied by his partner Marites Chioco, lawyers from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers and members of Karapatan, went to the Department of Justice to seek what has been deprived of him for almost a year: justice.
“Life in prison is difficult, especially if you have done nothing wrong,” Panesa, 48, told Bulatlat.com in Filipino, as he held a copy of his complaint and his company identification card.
Panesa filed charges of torture, unlawful arrest, incriminatory machination and perjury against several military and police officials and witnesses presented by the military in court.
Respondents to Panesa’s complaint on the violation of Anti-Torture Law, and unlawful arrest are Maj. Gen. Alan Luga, former Commanding Officer (CO) of Southern Luzon Command of AFP, Maj. Gen. Eduardo Del Rosario, CO of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, P/Csupt. James Andres B. Melad, former Regional Director of the Philippine National Police Regional Office IV, P/SSUPT. Manuel M. Abu, Chief of Regional Intelligence Office of PNP Regional Office IV, P/CINSP. Reynaldo Mendoza of the Regional Intelligence Office of PNP Regional Office IV, P/Ins. Bonifacio L. Guevarra, SPO1 Cristopher E. Flores, PO2 Ariel dela Cruz, PO2 Joseph M. Fernandez, POI Ellior de Lima.
Charged with perjury are Col. Generoso Bolina, spokesperson of Southern Luzon Command, Luis Grajo Rayos and Micheal Rojo Alvarado and Erwin Rosales all rebel returnees.
In his complaint-affidavit, Panesa said he is not Benjamin Mendoza. He recounted how he and his companions were arrested on October 5, 2012. “They did not present us any warrant. They did not inform us why we were being arrested,” Panesa told Bulatlat.com.
Lawyer Ephraim Cortez of the NUPL told the media that even as the authorities knew he was Rolly Panesa and even after Panesa presented documents and IDs issued by government agencies, they still refused to believe and release him.
Although Panesa admitted he could no longer remember the beatings he was subjected to after the arrest, he knew he was tortured. “I knew I was beaten up because my eyes, lips and cheeks were swollen. There was blood in my ears,” he said in Filipino in his affidavit.
Dr. Geneve Rivera who examined Panesa four days after the arrest said that injuries inflicted on Panesa were not more than seven days old. “Torture marks were evident,” Rivera, a volunteer doctor for Health Action for Human Rights, said. “We saw that the whites of his eyes – or the sclera – were red. His face was black and blue. His teeth were chipped. There were abrasions on his neck and hands,” she said.
Rivera added that the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Camp Bagong Diwa refused to receive Panesa because he was “bloodied.”
In a previous Bulatlat.com report, the medico-legal report conducted by the crime laboratory of the Philippine National Police-Region 4 also showed that Panesa had bruises and scratches.
Cortez said those who arrested Panesa should be held liable for violating the Anti-Torture Law and the Republic Act 7438 or the Rights of Persons Arrested, Detained or Under Custodial Investigation.
Meanwhile, in a report, Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala insisted that Rolly Panesa is Benjamin Mendoza despite the CA ruling on Panesa’s case.“We are very firm that Rolly Panesa and Benjamin Mendoza is one and the same person based on facts and witnesses,” Zagala said in the report.
In its August 27 decision, the CA Fifth Division said police officers were lying when they stated that confidential informants were with them before and during the arrest of Panesa.
Two weeks before the CA decision came out, AFP chief of staff Emmanuel Bautista himself awarded P5.6 million ($128 thousand) to tipsters who provided information that led to the arrest of Panesa.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said the CA has effectively questioned all the testimonies of the “confidential witnesses” presented by the military.
“There really are crooks in the government who think they are above the law, like lawyer Alex Alberto Popanes of the Philippine Army Judge Advocate General’s Office (PA-JAGO), who, even with the Court of Appeals’ (CA) decision to release Panesa, tried to delay the latter’s release by arrogantly pressuring the jail warden and officials of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). “Popanes is clearly mocking the CA,” Palabay said.
Popanes is charged with incriminatory machination.
Now free, Panesa said he plans to work again as a security guard. He has yet to undergo training as his license from the Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies (SOSIA) of the Philippine National Police has expired last January.
Asked what made him decide to file charges, Panesa said: “I do not want the same thing to happen to anybody.”