Only four police men were charged in the torture and illegal detention of Rolly Panesa, while their high-ranking officers are scot-free.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – A Calamba municipal court has released a warrant of arrest against four police officers charged with the crime of less serious physical injuries in relation to the abduction, torture and illegal detention of security guard Rolly Panesa.
This was the second warrant issued for the arrest of Police Insp. Bonifacio Guevarra, SPO1 Christopher Flores, P02 Ariel Dela Cruz and P02 Joseph M. Fernandez.
The four had earlier posted bail, after the first arrest warrant was issued by the Calamba Regional Trial Court Branch 36 on charges of violation of the anti-torture act and the law on the rights of arrested and detained.
Ephraim Cortez, Panesa’s counsel, said the new warrant of arrest will render practically ineffective the bail the accused earlier posted. As of now, the four have the option of either filing a motion for reconsideration or posting another bail, which is roughly P12,000 each, he added.
Ofel Beltran-Balleta, a paralegal of the rights group Karapatan who was present during the Feb. 23 hearing, said it was the third time that the accused did not attend.
Panesa was abducted with his three family members in Cubao on Oct. 6, 2012. The military claimed he was “Benjamin Mendoza,” an alleged leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines in Southern Tagalog who has a bounty of P5.6 million. The Court of Appeals, on August 2013, granted the petition for habeas corpus and ordered Panesa’s release.
The proceeding at the Calamba Regional Trial Court Branch 36 has hardly moved with various motions being filed by the accused, said Cortez. Most recent of which was a motion to dismiss, in which the accused stated that the case against them was filed even before they received the resolution of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
But Cortez, who is also the assistant secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, belied such claims, saying that the DOJ resolution was sent to the correct address. He referred to such attempts to stall the court proceedings as “contrived.”
Pending petition for review
Karapatan, in a statement, noted that the DOJ has yet to issue a resolution on the pending petition for partial review filed by Panesa.
The DOJ dropped high-ranking officials as respondents in the case despite the fact that the accused subordinates clearly acted “based on the chain of command,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.
The DOJ resolution, which led to the filing of charges against the four, not only dropped charges against high-ranking officials, but also did not acknowledge the mental and psychological torture that Panesa experienced from being blindfolded, handcuffed and interrogated for prolonged periods, Cortez added.