(Hong Kong, February 6, 2014) On January 14, the Court of Appeals (CA), Fifth Division, has concluded that Rolly Panesa, a 48-year-old security guard, could not possibly be Benjamin Mendoza, a leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), rejecting the claim of the police and soldiers as justification for his arrest.
In its press release, Karapatan, a local coalition of human rights groups, argued that the Court’s decision, “strengthens the anti-torture case he filed against his arresting officers and interrogators.” Panesa filed charges for violation of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 against those who arrested and tortured him.
In its decision, the Court hearing Panesa’s petition for habeas corpus rejected the petition by the police and the soldiers asking the court to reconsider its decision in August 2013. The police and the military appealed to the court’s decision, so as to allow them to re-arrest Panesa.
However, after nearly five months, the Court concluded with finality that the police and military could not arrest Rolly Panesa again: “There is no reason for the re-arrest of Rolly Panesa.”
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) spoke with Panesa via Skype from Hong Kong. Below is the transcription of our interview from Filipino with Panesa:
I am Rolly Panesa, 48 years old, I live in Project 4, Quezon City. I am a security guard.
About the incident, it happened on October 5, 2012, when I went to Mandaluyong City to visit my child with my second wife. I was told they have relatives from Singapore, so they asked us to go to their place.
At 9:30pm, the guest had arrived. At 10:30pm, we were on our way to our home, in Project 4, Quezon City. We went home early as I have to go to work early morning the following day, at 6am. We were riding on a black Toyota Vios. We parked the vehicle in front of World City Medical Center, along Aurora Boulevard.
We were able to park the vehicle there because I know the security guards there. I was working there from early 1999 until 2011. The place is also walking distance in going to our home in Project 4, Quezon City. After we parked the vehicle, we were walking on our way home passing Aurora Boulevard.
Here, two persons suddenly grabbed me, I was forced to lie on the ground and handcuffed. They did not tell me anything, no explanations. They just handcuffed me and blindfolded me. I lost my consciousness. I did no longer know what was happening during that time. What I heard only was my wife yelling (as she was frightened) at what she had seen on what they were doing to me.
After three days, I regained consciousness. I learned that I was already in Camp Vicente Lim, in Laguna. They took me there. By that time, they had my clothes replaced. They also asked me whether I know the place where I was taken, but I told them: “Ï don’t know because I was blindfolded.”
Four of us were arrested at that time, the couple, owner of the vehicle; and their child. But they were released later. I was the only one left detained in the camp.
When I regained my consciousness, they bathed me, changed my dress. My face was bleeding at that time, my ears were bleeding, my teeth broken. Until now, my teeth are still broken. What happened in the camp was, they were forcing me to admit that I was Benjamin Mendoza. They took me inside a room where they tortured me with my handcuffs on. On three occasions, I remember, they were asking the same questions.
But on the last question, when they had asked to admit that I am Benjamin Mendoza, but when I told them that my real name is Rolly Panesa, they suddenly hit my head. Later, they took me to Camp Bagong Diwa with my blindfold still on. I had no idea where did we go or what places did we pass through since I was blindfolded.
I think they arrested me because of the reward money on the head of Benjamin Mendoza. So they were arresting anyone whether or not they are the real person so they can get the bounty. I learned about this reward money after my arrest was reported in the media. In the reports, the police and soldiers claimed that they have already arrested Benjamin Mendoza.
Also, this pattern of arresting persons so they could get the reward is very common. I am not the only victim of this practice. I also know other persons who suffered as I have. I could not mention their names, but I’m sure that arresting and torturing persons to get a reward is a common practice.
In our province, I heard about a person who was arrested for another person also because the arresting officers wanted to get the reward money.
The truth, that I am not Benjamin Mendoza, was already affirmed by the court. It was also because of the identification cards that I have and have presented to court. I have a complete set of identification cards about my person. I don’t understand why the government (police and the military) were insisting that I am Benjamin Mendoza. On papers, it was clear that I am not.
I have identity papers from National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Social Security System (SSS), Driver’s License. Even my own employer had provided proof proving that I am Rolly Panesa.
What the police and soldiers did to me was unjust. They tortured me. My family was also affected. My livelihood was also affected. For us victims, we must fight for our rights, because what they are doing is not good. What the soldiers are doing is unreasonable because they are arresting anybody they like, especially those who have bounty for the arrest of a wanted person. They are using people to make money. That is what they did to me. They used me.
I hope what happened to me will not happen to other people.
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