Anomalous “wanted with rewards” scheme of the AFP

Last August 13 and August 14 national newspaper featured a photo of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista handing over stacks of cash worth P5.6 million to a hooded “informant”, purportedly as the latter’s reward for helping in the “capture” of suspected top New People’s Army (NPA) leader in the Southern Tagalog Region, Benjamin Mendoza. The grant of the reward for the supposed “capture” of Benjamin Mendoza was only part of the over P19.25 million granted as rewards to “informants” for the “capture” of seven supposed NPA leaders and three supposed Abu Sayyaf members. The grant of the rewards was made in a ceremony held by the AFP leadership last August 12.

The AFP has known all along that the supposed “capture” of Benjamin Mendoza is a big lie, concocted and connived at so that the top leadership of the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) would be able to pocket the P5.6 million reward for his “capture”. This, in grave detriment to an innocent person, Rolly Panesa, who has long been made a helpless victim to the concoction.

Just past midnight of October 5, 2012, during the period of the turnover of the command of the SOLCOM to a new leadership, an entirely different person - - the 48 year old Rolly Panesa, who had been working as a full-time security guard in Metro Manila ever since he was 24 years old - - was brutally arrested as “Benjamin Mendoza”, the 61-year old suspected top leader of the NPA in the Southern Tagalog Region.

Rolly and his immediate family and household members had just come from a larger family reunion at the Tivoli Garden in Mandaluyong and, on their way home to Proj. 4, were walking along Aurora Blvd. towards the Mini-Stop 24 –hour grocery when 2 vans stopped along their way and the van’s armed occupants came out and brutally grabbed Rolly and his companions, who were then hurled into the vans. In the process, Rolly’s head was slammed onto the street pavement, causing bleeding and contusions on his head and face. They were rushed to Camp Vicente Lim in Laguna, and initially all detained there.

The next day, Rolly’s wife and two other members of the family arrested with him were released. Their money and other valuable belongings they had with them were not returned. Upon returning home, they found their entire rented apartment in Project 4 to have just been ransacked and all possible evidences as to who Rolly Panesa really is were stolen.

Rolly was transferred to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology Special Intensive Care Area (BJMP-SICA) for ”high risk” prisoners three days later. Initially his transfer to the BJMP-SICA was not accepted as his eyes and ears were bloody and his forehead, cheeks, ears, lips and eyelids were inflamed, and he was always slumping with grogginess. His transfer was later accepted, however, when the arresting forces soon came back, already bringing with them a medical certificate attesting to his “good health”.

Rolly has since then been detained at the BJMP-SICA jail up to now.

Rolly’s family and KARAPATAN human rights organization petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus, which started to be heard by the Court of Appeals on November 23, 2012 up to May 8, 2013. Rolly, his family, his employer for the last 14 years (Megaforce Security) and a number of others attested and presented official documents and other evidences proving that he is indeed the 48-year Rolly Panesa, and not the 61-year old “Benjamin Mendoza” that the AFP has been trying to insist he is. On the other hand, the AFP’s “witnesses” gave very ridiculous, obvious lies in their insistence that the one they arrested is really “Benjamin Mendoza”. The Court of Appeals judges hearing the case could not help but giggle (not so secretly) and stare at the ceiling everytime the AFP’s “witnesses” were testifying with ridiculous, obvious lies.

The Court of Appeals is expected to soon render its decision on the habeas corpus case Rolly Panesa’s family and KARAPATAN filed. Which is why the AFP had been in a hurry to turn-over the P5.6 million reward for Benjamin Mendoza’s “capture” to a supposed “informant,” before the decision is rendered by the Court of Appeals. Otherwise, the payment of the P5.6 million reward to the supposed “informant” may be frustrated.

In the case of many others for whose “capture” more millions of rewards have been given to supposed “informants”, most of them have similarly been victims of intentional “mistaken identity”. Meanwhile, the huge bounties for their “capture” have only been pocketed by some top-ranking AFP officials, passing first through the hands of unidentified hooded “informants.”

Here at the BJMP-SICA, about a hundred have been cruelly, unjustly, arbitrarily and illegally arrested, detained and charged under intentional “mistaken identities”, with top-ranking AFP officials feasting on their collection of rewards for the “capture” of these victims.

In some cases, it has come to such ridiculousness such that pairs of those detained here and elsewhere have time and again been brought to court together with the same “mistaken identities.” A recent example of such has been that of two Moro detainees (Jirin Hatimon of Jolo, Sulo and Abbulhan Ussih of Cotabato City) who were arrested separately, but have been detained together here at the BJMP-SICA, charged and brought to court as one person - - as “Black Tungkang”.

Because of such anomalies in the AFP’s handling of the “wanted with rewards” scheme, where dubious collections of rewards have been made and continue to be made only to sacrifice innocent victims who keep on being arrested, detained and charged with intentional “mistaken identities”, just to enrich the scheming top-ranking AFP officials with the use of fake “informants”, the huge budget of the AFP for such gross, corrupt and vicious anomalies should be entirely scrapped.

It is very obvious that top-ranking AFP officials have been abusing to the hilt, with such anomalous and cruel schemes, the existing budget for “rewards for the neutralization of those wanted by law”. Such schemes have been so highly manipulated, so as to be investigation-free, as the recipient “informers” are not supposed to be identified.

Unless such schemes are stopped, there will be hundreds and hundreds more of such victims of intentional “mistaken identities” throughout the country.

detained NDF peace consultant,
BJMP-SICA, Camp Bagong Diwa
Bicutan, Taguig City
19 August 2013