AFP witness vs. detained Rolly Panesa should be charged with perjury

AFP today presented before the Court of Appeals its witness, Luis Rayos, to supposedly prove that security guard Rolly Panesa is the high ranking CPP-NPA official “Benjamin Mendoza.” Rayos is 40 years old and claims to be a rebel returnee who is constantly monitored by the military. 

"We have long waited for this AFP witness. We wanted to see and hear the government’s new concoction of lies but, expectedly, the AFP did poorly. Nothing beats the truth. Rayos was obviously lying and should be charged with perjury," Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan said. "His statements were inconsistent and did nothing to prove that security guard Panesa is “Mendoza”. All he did was to point his finger to Panesa, the lone person in the Court who was wearing a BJMP prison shirt," Palabay added. 

During the cross examination, Rayos claimed to have worked with Mendoza for three years, from 2003-2005, meeting with him once a month to get his NPA unit's monthly  budget. During these years, Panesa was already working, for almost ten years, as a security guard at the Megaforce Security Co. Panesa, through the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), earlier presented in Court the documentary evidence such as SSS contributions and employment pay slips to support his claim that he is not “Benjamin Mendoza”. 

The AFP’s storyline, according to Palabay, was eventually blown off course when Rayos was shown a picture of Panesa with bruised and swollen face after the latter was tortured during interrogation. Rayos, at one point in the cross examination, said yes it was Mendoza who is in the picture. After several questions, Rayos retracted and said that the Mendoza he saw did not have a swollen and bruised face, “galos lang ang nasa mukha niya”.   

“Rayos was torn between proving that Panesa is “Mendoza” and covering up the torture that Panesa suffered in the hands of the military,” said Palabay. 

Maritess Chioco, Panesa’s wife, said that even Rayos’ description of the clothes that Panesa wore during his two days in detention was incorrect.  Chioco, whom the military alleged as “Ka Luisa”, wife of “Benjamin Mendoza”, was abducted and detained for two days with Panesa but was released after two days. 

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) through Atty. Sarah Jane Fernandez was unable to present its second witness, while it could not provide the name of its third witness. Palabay said that, “it is ridiculous that after 10 hearings the identity of the AFP’s third witness is unknown even to the OSG and the CA Justices. The AFP comes up with every excuse and lie to delay the proceedings."

"Panesa has been in jail for six long months for mistaken identity," Palabay continued. "Every day in jail is a prolonged injustice!" Palabay said. 

Members of Karapatan and the Promotion of Church People's Response (PCPR) held a protest picket in front of the Court Appeals minutes before the hearing for Panesa's writ of habeas corpus. They held masks with different faces, all bearing the name “Benjamin Mendoza”. "This shows how arbitrary the military is. Any man can be Benjamin Mendoza, without any basis, just to get the bounty and make it appear that Oplan Bayanihan is gaining ground," Palabay said. The group called for the immediate release of Panesa. 

Panesa was abducted together with his wife and step daughter on October 7, 2012 in Quezon City under the arrest warrant for Benjamin Mendoza. Panesa was tortured and made to confess that he is Mendoza. Panesa is currently detained in Special Intensive Care Area of the Bicutan Jail.