‘Mistaken-identity’ arrests

By Satur C. Ocampo
At Ground Level | The Philippine Star

The AFP-PNP counterinsurgency forces have done it again: they arrested two elderly persons in Mexico, Pampanga whom they mistook for “top leaders” of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army.

Arrested last Oct. 1 were Lourdes Quioc, 64, a village “hilot” (midwife), and Reynaldo Ingal, 63, a retired driver.

The Central Luzon PNP used arrest warrants issued in 2004 by Judge Victoria Villalon-Fornillos of the Bulacan RTC Branch 10. But the warrants were in the names of Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio, both allegedly members of the CPP central committee. They are charged with murder, with 70 others, in connection with an ambush by the NPA on Philippine Army soldiers in San Ildefonso, Bulacan in November 2004. The rewards for their capture combined total P10.6 million.

Immediate relatives of Quioc and Ingal protested by trooping to the PNP regional headquarters in Camp Olivas, but they were barred at the gate. The PNP regional director, Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, was quoted in the media as saying the arrested persons’ lawyers must prove in court that they were victims of mistaken identity.

Former Mexico mayor Teddy Tumang, now a provincial board member, called me up attesting that he knows Quioc and Ingal; Quioc is his wife’s cousin. Looking at the photographs of the two appearing in a newspaper, I can confidently say they are not Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio.

I know the latter personally because they were detained with me at the Bicutan Rehabilitation Center under martial law.

Since 2012 at least four similar mistaken-identity arrests have been made through AFP-PNP joint operations. In two instances, the courts ruled categorically that the victims were not the actual subjects of arrest warrants and ordered them freed.

The most notorious case was that of security guard Rolly Panesa, 48, on Oct. 5, 2012, arrested by an AFP-PNP joint operation under the Southern Luzon Command. The military announced they had captured “Benjamin Mendoza,” 61, an alleged CPP-NPA official with a P5.6-million bounty.

In August 2013 the AFP chief of staff reportedly awarded the money to an “informant” who had aided in the operation.

After human rights workers found him in detention, Panesa narrated how he was interrogated and heavily tortured, forcing him to admit he was “Benjamin Mendoza.” His relatives had filed a habeas corpus petition, which was heard by the Court of Appeals. On Aug. 30, 2013 the CA ruled that his arrest was a case of mistaken identity, that his detention was an act of injustice, and that he should be released immediately.

Another AFP-PNP arrest which the court found to be one of mistaken identity was that of Olegario Sevas. He was arrested on Dec. 25, 2012 in Negros Occidental. The arresting team claimed he was “Filemon Mendrez,” an alleged NPA leader charged with rebellion and robbery in band, with a P5.25-million reward for his capture. After hearing the habeas corpus petition filed by his kin, the court upheld Sevas’ true identity and ordered him freed in April 2013.

Two other cases remain unresolved.

The arrest of Eduardo Esteban, 60, has a quaint twist. On August 5, 2014 he was taken away from his home in Jaro, Iloilo. The warrant was in the name of Manuel Esteban, an alleged NPA leader in the Ilocos-Cordillera region with a P5.8-million bounty — but the first name was changed to Eduardo.

The other was the Sept. 10, 2013 warrantless arrest of Ofelia Inong in Sagada, Mountain Province. The PNP-AFP arresting team insisted that she was “Lolita Loguibis,” allegedly a NPA finance-logistics officer with a bounty of P2.05 million.

Note that each arrest involved a big monetary reward/bounty, presumably taken from the P466.88 M allotted under DND-DILG Joint Order No. 14-2012 for the capture/arrest of 235 “wanted communists.”

Who collected the rewards for the Panesa and Sevas arrests — both of which were ruled as wrongful and unjust? This needs looking into.

Reader’s comment: Reacting to this column’s piece last week, Don Grissom wrote:

“As an American lucky enough to have a Filipina fiancée, your news and opinions have become of importance to me. Your column, ‘US has responsibility for Islamic State rise,’ is perceptive and true. I wish I could defend the actions of my country but I have no ammunition. The foreign policies of my country have been disastrous.

“I believe that the 9/11 [Sept. 11, 2001] acts of terror resulted from my government’s interference in the politics of Iran in 1953. Our CIA destabilized the elected government and installed the infamous Shah of Iran and his Security Police, who terrorized the Iranian citizenry for 26 years. My country also invaded Guatemala in 1954 covertly to prevent the nationalization of the banana industry. We also prevented democratic elections in Vietnam in 1956. The list continues.

“The leaders of my country and others have ignored the lessons of the French Revolution, the Prohibition, and the Vietnam War. The result is that these events reoccur in different forms in the future. President Bush, whom I refer to as “Son of Bush” as in “Son of Frankenstein,” cut taxes for his rich friends and after he instigated two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan he pushed our national deficit into the ceiling. It is a tragic waste that history’s lessons are ignored.

“I enoy your column, keep up the good work and God bless you.”

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E-mail: satur.ocampo@gmail.com
Published in The Philippine Star
October 11, 2014

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