PHILIPPINES: Rights group slams acquittal of police officers in illegal arrest, torture of security guard Rolly Panesa

A Statement from Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (KARAPATAN) forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

Karapatan expressed disappointment on the ruling of the Regional Trial Court Branch 36 of Calamba, Laguna yesterday, May 16, 2018, on the criminal cases filed by security guard Rolly Panesa against four police officers and other John and Jane Does.

Panesa, a security guard of the Megaforce Security, was arrested on October 5, 2012, by joint elements of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, led by Southern Luzon Commander Maj. General Alan Luga, and the Philippine National Police. Panesa was mistaken for “Benjamin Mendoza”, whom the military alleged as a high-ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) with a bounty of P5.6M. He was brought to Camp Vicente Lim where he was denied his right to counsel. He was later transferred and detained at Camp Bagong Diwa.

Panesa recalled that at Camp Vicente Lim, he was interrogated, tortured and forced to admit that he was “Benjamin Mendoza.” Every time he stood by his real identity, he would get a beating. According to his interrogators, a mole on Panesa’s nape proves that he is “Benjamin Mendoza.”

Photo of Rolly Panesa a few days after his torture and interrogation at Camp Vicente Lim
In her 15-page decision, the court’s Presiding Judge Glenda B. Mendoza-Ramos acquitted P/Insp. Bonifacio T. Guevarra, SPO1 Christopher E. Flores, P02 Ariel Dela Cruz, P02 Joseph M. Fernandez and other John and Jane Does for violating Republic Act 9745 or the Anti-Torture Law of 2009 and Republic Act 7438 or an act defining certain rights of person arrested, detained or under custodial investigation as well as the duties of the arresting, detaining and investigating officers.

“It is utterly disconcerting and incredible that the local court acquitted the said police officers and gave more weight and credence to their testimony, despite Panesa’s positive identification of the four as his captors and the police officers’ own admission that they were the ones who wrongly arrested Panesa,” said Jigs Clamor, Karapatan Deputy Secretary General.

“With this decision, the local court seems to further the power of the police and military by acceding to its practice and culture of committing human rights violations against individuals that it deems or considers to be supporters, sympathizers or members of the CPP,” added Clamor.

In 2014, the Court of Appeals granted the petition for habeas corpus filed by Panesa. The CA said that Panesa’s detention is not justified because he is not Benjamin Mendoza. The CA ordered for his immediate release from detention. After his release, Panesa filed criminal charges in September 2014 against the police and military officers who were responsible for his arrest and torture.

“This is the height of injustice to a person who have been wrongly arrested, heavily tortured and detained for 11 months. There is no justification to any kind of physical suffering inflicted to a person by state forces,” said Clamor.

Another case was filed by Panesa against his captors for grave coercion which is still pending before a municipal trial court in Calamba.


The views shared in this statement do not necessarily reflect that of the AHRC.