“The recent resolution of the Court of Appeals denying the motion for the re-arrest of security guard Rolly Panesa strengthens the anti-torture case he filed against his arresting officers and interrogators,” Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights alliance Karapatan.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – The Court of Appeals (CA) has denied the motion filed by military and police officials implicated in the torture of security guard Rolly Panesa.
In a decision last January 14, 2014, the former Fifth Division of the Court of Appeals dismissed the urgent motion for reconsideration and for order of re-arrest of Panesa for “lack of merit.”
Panesa was arrested by authorities on October 6, 2012 and detained for 11 months. The military claimed Panesa is the same person as Benjamin Mendoza, an alleged leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in Southern Tagalog with a bounty on his head amounting to P5.6 million ($133,000). In August 2013, the appellate court granted the petition for habeas corpus and ordered the release of Panesa. Members of the arresting team filed a motion for reconsideration with the CA.
“The recent resolution of the Court of Appeals denying the motion for the re-arrest of security guard Rolly Panesa strengthens the anti-torture case he filed against his arresting officers and interrogators,” Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights alliance Karapatan, said in a statement.
After his release, Panesa filed with the Department of Justice charges of torture, unlawful arrest and perjury against Maj. Gen. Alan Luga, former Commanding Officer (CO) of Southern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, 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.
“There is no reason for the re-arrest of Rolly Panesa,” the appellate court said in its decision. It also stated,“… As we have emphatically been stating, the detained person, Rolly Panesa, is not the same person as ‘Danilo Benjamin Mendoza’. Rolly Panesa is his real name and it can never be his alias, as what was stated in the Commitment Order. Hence, there can be no justification for his continued detention.”
Even before the court freed Panesa from jail, military officials have been insisting that he is Benjamin Mendoza. Luga and lawyer Alex Alberto Popanes of Judge Advocate General Office of the Philippine Army (Jago) submitted to the DOJ their counter-affidavits and rejoinder on Panesa’s counter-charges. Both denied responsibility in the illegal arrest, detention and torture of Panesa, insisting that Rolly Panesa is “Benjamin Mendoza”.
Palabay said in a statement: “The military respondents are like two-faced monsters. While denying their part on Panesa’s arrest and imprisonment they want him re-arrested. They never learned. They never tire of churning out lies to the point of ridiculously contradicting themselves.”
Karapatan expressed hopes that the DOJ will find value in the recent CA decision, saying this is so people like Panesa’s torturers, arresting police and army officers, such as Lt. Gen. Luga, Atty. Popanes will be punished for grave violations. “We want them prosecuted, jailed and, not promoted as what happened to the likes of Baladad, Año and other military officials. The case of Panesa should never happen again,” Palabay said.
Brigadier General Aurelio Baladad, appointed as commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, Philippine Army in Western Visayas, is implicated in the arrest of 43 health workers, known as the Morong 43, in February 2010. Brigadier General Eduardo M. Año, meanwhile, was linked to the enforced disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos. He was appointed as head of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp).