“The AFP should stop weaving its absurd lies on Rolly Panesa, to justify its claim to the P5.6M bounty on his head. Tigilan niyo na ang paglulubid ng kwento, tantanan niyo na si Rolly Panesa. Pinagkakitaan niyo na nga yung pagkaaresto at tortyur nung tao,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of rights group Karapatan.
“To this day, almost five months after they got Panesa, the AFP could neither show proof that Panesa is alleged rebel leader ‘Benjamin Mendoza’ nor repudiate the veracity of the documents submitted by Panesa, as proof that he is not Mendoza,” she said.
Karapatan, with Task Force Panesa, composed of church people from different denominations, today held a picket at the Court of Appeals as the spokesperson of the Southern Luzon Command, Col. Generoso Bolina took the witness stand to defend the AFP’s claim that security guard Rolly Panesa whom they abducted, tortured and jailed, is ‘Benjamin Mendoza’, a high-ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines, with a 5.6 million peso reward.
“We demand the immediate release of Panesa. This detention is difficult for everyone. It is difficult for Panesa who remains clueless of why he is detained; it is also difficult for the government and the AFP to cook up evidences to prove their claim. The whole case is senseless,” said Palabay.
Karapatan claims that the government’s desperation to meet Oplan Bayanihan’s 2013 deadline is the motive behind the arrest of innocent civilians like Panesa. This Oplan Bayanihan deadline also “resulted in an increase in the cases of people who are falsely charged with criminal cases using warrants against John/Jane Does and aliases.” The Department of Justice (DOJ), as early as the 1990’s, issued Circular No. 50, saying that an appropriate description must accompany a particular John/Jane Doe but the practice continues.
Human rights group Karapatan and umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), together with members and leaders of several organizations today condemned in strongest terms the series of attacks against people's organizations and partylist groups, disguised as break-ins and robberies. The groups decried what they described as the "rising and systematic forms of state repression and harassment of government critics". They said that the recent incidents were made to appear as common crimes but were actually targeted attacks on activists and their organizations.
From March 2012 up until last week, Karapatan and Bayan documented twelve(12) cases of break-ins of houses of activists and peace advocates, and offices of progressive organizations; robberies involving items such as laptops, USB/flash drives, video cameras, and the like; and surveillance of known personalities and members of such organizations.
As early as March 2012, the laptop of UP Manila activist Nikki Gamara was stolen inside the university premises. What seems to be an ordinary case of theft turned out to be more than just that. Three weeks after, her father, Renante Gamara, a peace consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), was illegally arrested. Records show that the laptop of Nikki was stolen a week before a warrant based on trumped-up charges was issued against her father.
There was also a series of break-ins in offices of Gabriela Women's Party (June 13, 2012), Health Alliance for Democracy (December 25, 2012), and the offices of Parents Alternative for ECCD Inc. and Salinlahi Alliance for Children's Concerns (January 13, 2013). The most recent incident was the break-in and robbery in the shared office of the chapters of Bayan and Karapatan in the National Capital Region last February 14, 2013. These are all publicly known offices of these organizations. Taken from the offices were desktop computers, laptops, hard disks and similar data storage devices, cameras and cellphones.
Also victims of robberies were persons involved in the peace process such as Atty. Rachel Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center (September 22, 2012) , Rey Casambre, Director of the Philippine Peace Center (February 9, 2013) and Rosie Tumbagahon, a staff working at the Joint Secretariat of the Joint Monitoring Committee of the GPH and NDFP (February 9, 2013).
These incidents are clearly systematic attacks against progressive organizations and individuals, made to appear as isolated cases of common crimes, the groups said. They pointed out that only the military would have the motive and means to carry out these attacks.
"The usual targets of the perpetrators are data storage devices such as flash disks, hard drives and laptops, cellular phones and cameras. It appears that the intelligence operatives are gathering more data on government critics as a prelude to possibly more attacks, especially during the election season," the groups said.
"The Aquino government should refrain from sabotaging the peace process and should immediately release detained peace consultants," Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said as the group staged a picket protest in front of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP). OPAPP is tasked to “oversee, coordinate and integrate the implementation of the comprehensive peace process.”
According to Palabay, the harassment, arrest and detention of peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) through trumped up charges and inclusion in the bounty list of the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) are clear violations of the Joint Agreement on Immunity and Security Guarantees (JASIG), an agreement signed between the GPH and the NDFP in 1995,” added Palabay. JASIG was signed by both parties in February 24, 1995.
Meanwhile, detained NDFP consultant Ramon Patriarca today started a protest fast until February 26, 2013. Patriarca is currently detained at the AFP Central Command in Camp Lapu-lapu, Cebu City, where he was transferred from the Cebu Provincial Jail in Danao City. Patriarca has been in jail for four years.
Patriarca, through a statement, said the Aquino government "is effectively stalling the peace talk’s regular course, and the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio Economic Reforms (CASER). It continues to violate, with impunity, the 1998 GRP-NDF Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).” CARHRIHL is the first of the four substantive agenda lined up for discussion between the GPH and the NDFP.
I am writing you again a letter that I am not sure if you will be able to read.
I guess I am still writing you, even after six years of your disappearance, for my own comfort. I’d like to think that maybe somehow my message will reach you. I would like to imagine that while reading my letter, you'll smile and maybe, just maybe, you'll answer this.
Because I want to tell you that you have a very handsome and healthy grandson. His name is Ron Eliseo. I named him after Nanay, Elizabeth and of course, you, Leo. ELISEO. Do you like his name? Then you'll probably smile and say, "best name."
Eliseo just turned one year old this month. You don't know how much I want you to meet him. I'm sure you'll fall in love with him, too, like so many of his Titos and Titas do. I hope that he grows up to be as smart, compassionate, humble and as happy as his Lolo Leo.
Yet, it pains me that he does not have the chance to meet you. He could have learned so much from you, like I did.
Six years, Tay. Six long years. I have not stopped fighting for justice since then. Together with other families of the desaparecidos, we continue this struggle even if it takes 10, 20, or more years.
I would like to tell you that finally a law criminalizing the act of enforced disappearance was just enacted. Our group, Families of Desaparecidos for Justice, was a part of the committee that wrote its Implementing Rules and Regulations. Families of victims of enforced disappearances can now file a case in court under this act. And because this is considered as continuing crime, those who were disappeared before the enactment of this law who are still missing can still file a case in court.
I can now work for the prosecution of your abductors, Tatay. I can make all of them rot in jail. But how? I don't know who they are. Witnesses to your abduction are too afraid to be involved. All I know is that you were abducted by the Arroyo government and that this current government is still hiding you.
I do not want keep my hopes high that this law will bring you back home. I know, from what you had taught me, it takes more than an enactment of a law to bring about justice.
I spend this day with pain and sadness because six years ago, the State took you away from us, and we had to live our lives without your hugs, your voice and most of all without you.
I realize, now that I am a parent too, that this society is too violent for Eliseo to grow up in. I cannot bear the idea of him suffering because of the illnesses of this society, yet I know I will not be there to protect him at all times. Like you, I would have to trust that he will learn to have strength and courage to face hardships. And like you and Nanay, we continue to be part of a movement for a real and meaningful change for our children’s and grandchildren's future. Now I understand the choices you took earlier in life and why you held on to those principles.
Take care, Tatay.
There is not a day that I didn't miss you.
Love and kisses,
Aya and Eliseo
**“Tatay” is Leo Velasco, a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) who was abducted in Cagayan de Oro City on February 19, 2007, under the Arroyo government. Today, he remains missing, almost three years after Noynoy Aquino assumed presidency. Velasco is among the 11 NDF consultants and staff who were abducted and forcibly disappeared, despite being protected under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees or JASIG signed between the GPH and the NDFP in 1995.