Photos released by Karapatan of a man it says was mistaken by the military as Benjamin Mendoza, a ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines
A HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP says government soldiers and police arrested a security guard after mistaking him for a ranking communist rebel leader last October 6.
What makes matters worse, the rights group Karapatan said, is that military and police operatives tortured Rolly Panesa, who claims to be a security guard at the ACP Compound in Eastwood, to make him confess to being Benjamin Mendoza, allegedly the secretary of the Communist Party of the Philippines Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee and a member of the CPP Central Committee.
The military had announced the arrest of a man it claims to be Mendoza in an operation in Cubao Quezon City last October 6. Mendoza is said to be facing several warrants of arrest for murder and kidnapping, and has a P5.6 million bounty on his head.
In a press conference Wednesday, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay insisted that Panesa was an innocent victim of mistaken identity. Panesa was allegedly with his live-in partner Maritess Chioco, her daughter Connie Rey, and her husband Peter when the four were stopped by members of the Philippine National Police and soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division. Panesa was detained while his companions were released.
However Palabay said that Panesa was severely tortured during detention to force a confession from him. Palabay said Panesa was beaten up every time he insisted on his innocence.
Karapatan also released a medical certificate and photos of the man they claimed is Panesa to the media.
The medical certificate, signed by a Dr. Geneve Rivera-Reyes and dated October 11, said she examined a man named “Rolly Panisa” and “alleged as Benjamin Mendoza,” who showed indications of “multiple abrasions, contusions, and hematoma.”
In particular, the doctor noted multiple contusions around the patient’s eyes and upper lip, and a swelling of the right cheek. There was also evidence of blood clotting on his right ear. His mouth also exhibited contusions and hematoma, while his incisor or front tooth was chipped.
Photos annexed to the medical report were much less clinical; they showed a man with short hair with swollen eyelids and cheeks, as well as what appear to be bruising on his face. The man also had a noticeably swollen upper lip.
Interestingly, the doctor noted in her medical report that the patient had been brought to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig on October 8. However, the doctor quoted the patient as saying that the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology refused to accept him unless there was a medical clearance first. The man was then brought to the Taguig General Hospital “where his wounds were cleaned, his ears and eyes examined.”
Dr. Rivera-Reyes examined the patient inside the BJMP center in Camp Bagong Diwa upon the request of Karapatan.
“Justice should be rendered to Panesa and his family, for all the grave violations on their rights. In fact, regardless of identities of persons, including “Benjamin Mendoza”, no one should be subjected to such deplorable and gross violations of human rights,” Palabay said.
However the military stood by its claim that Panesa was just an alias used by Mendoza. Armed Forces spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos said the military has four witnesses against Mendoza, including three former communist rebels. “Also, he cannot explain how a 61-year old security guard can own a posh condominium in Aurora Boulevard and drive a brand new Toyota Vios,” Burgos said.
AFP Southern Luzon Command spokesman Col. Generoso Bolina also dismissed charges that the man was tortured by the military. Bolina said human rights groups always complain of torture when suspected rebels are arrested. ”Iyan naman parati ang allegation nila pag sila ang nahuhuli,” Bolina said. (That is always their charge when they are arrested)
Bolina however would not comment on the photos and medical certificate released by Karapatan showing a man with apparent bruises on his face, saying he had not seen the photos or the medical report. Bolina said that they would not condone the torture of any suspect, and that charges of torture would be taken very seriously.
:”He will be given his chance in court. Kung may mananagot (torture charges) hindi yan pababayaan ng AFP,” Bolina said. “Mas maganda kung sa korte nalang kung sinasabi nilang binugbog o minanhandle siya.”
(If there is anyone who is accused of torture, this will not be treated lightly by the AFP. If they insist he was manhandled or tortured, t is better if we just go to court.)