AFP holds on to recycled witnesses and lies as hearing on Panesa case wraps up

The hearing for the petition of the writ of habeas corpus in relation to the arrest and detention of security guard Rolly Panesa wrapped up on May 9 at the Court of Appeals as two more witnesses of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were presented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in behalf of the Judge Advocate General’s Office (JAGO).  
“While an innocent person continues to languish in jail, the AFP insisted to the end that the person they arrested, tortured and detained is “Benjamin Mendoza.” The AFP brought military assets who are “professional witnesses,” whose convoluted lies crafted by the military are so obvious,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.
Palabay said Irwin Rosales, one of the witnesses presented by the AFP, is a rebel returnee who was also used by the military in building up false charges against Tirso “Bart” Alcantara, a consultant of the National Democratic Front. 
“The AFP recycles professional witnesses whose main roles are to parrot their recycled lies and to justify the illegal arrests, torture and detention of Panesa, Alcantara and the rest of the 430 political prisoners,” she commented.
Rosales said he is tasked by the military to confirm the identities of so-called rebels arrested either by the police or the military. In the courtroom, Rosales pointed to Rolly Panesa and identified him as “Benjamin Mendoza”, whom he also called ‘Ka Lorenz’, ‘Ka Kenji’ and ‘Ka Dave’.  As in the past hearings, Panesa was the lone person in the courtroom wearing a yellow prison shirt and surrounded by jail guards. 
Rosales said he knew “Benjamin Mendoza” having worked with him for one month. The last time Rosales saw ‘Mendoza’ was in 1998. After 14 years, Rosales saw ‘Mendoza’ again inside Camp Vicente Lim for about “five minutes” (‘Sandali lang, pinasilip lang siya sa akin. Mga five minutes.’) and some six meters away and he was able to confirm to the military that the detained person was ‘Mendoza’.  Rosales said ‘Mendoza’ had ‘galos’ (scratches) on his face. At that time, Rolly Panesa’s face was already swollen and bruised from the beating he got from his interrogators.
In the courtroom, the CA justices asked a person to stand six meters away from Rosales. Rosales failed to correctly describe the person’s nose, saying it was flat when it was not; saying the ears were small when they were big. 
The OSG also presented Michael Rojo Alvarado, 41, a self-confessed military “secret agent”. Alvarado had long been scheduled to take the witness stand but Atty. Alex Popanes of JAGO claimed Alvarado is still in the hospital recuperating from a surgery. Alvarado said he was hit by a bullet in an encounter with the NPA on March 23 but only went to the hospital on April 16 where he stayed until May 8, the day before he took the witness stand. When asked to show his wound, which Alvarado claimed to be still under treatment, the justices noted that the “wound is dry.” Alvarado was using a visibly newly bought waist binder.
Both Rosales and Alvarado asserted they were “ordinary members” of the CPP-NPA. Rosales called himself ‘utusan’. Both said that “Benjamin Mendoza” was the highest ranking person of the CPP-NPA in Southern Tagalog. Both said that those in the revolutionary movement use aliases. But, both knew that “Benjamin Mendoza” is the real name of ‘Ka Lorenz’, ‘Ka Kenji’ and ‘Ka Dave’. Rosales argued that he learned of ‘Ka Lorenz’s’ real name when he saw an identification card inside ‘Ka Lorenz’s’ hut in the NPA camp with ‘Ka Lorenz’s picture and the name ‘Benjamin Mendoza’ on it. Rosales and Alvarado are the AFP’s last witnesses.
“The testimonies of both witnesses’ were demolished during the cross examination as one lie crumbles after another. The AFP should stop using false witnesses to justify their abuses. The more they churn out lies, the more their arguments collapse,” said Palabay.
In a previous hearing, the AFP presented another rebel returnee, Luis Rayos “who also dumped rubbish inside the court,” said Palabay, adding that “there should be no more delays in serving justice to Rolly Panesa. The family of Rolly expected that right after today’s hearing, he will be home. As in the case of all political prisoners, Rolly should not stay a day longer in jail because of false charges. The AFP’s abuses and violations are out in the open. The AFP can no longer hide behind lies and false witnesses to justify false arrest and false imprisonment.” ###