SF CHRP (San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) is a San Francisco based human rights advocacy group. Latest news and views on human rights in the Philippines.
Refernece: Rupert Estanislao, chair
The San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (SF CHRP) welcomes the long overdue release of security guard Rolito “Rolly” Mira Panesa who had been detained for eleven months in a clear-cut case of mistaken identity and trumped up charges.
“While we applaud the Court of Appeals for seeing through the blatant deception and lies of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) we lament that the military brass fought his release every step of the way by keeping this innocent security guard in an overcrowded jail cell,” said SF CHRP chair Rupert Estanislao.
Panesa, along with his wife, were arrested and illegally detained by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in October of 2012 with the AFP claiming that he was a “high ranking communist official” who went by the alias of “Benjamin Mendoza.” In reality, the 48-year-old Panesa is not the 61-year-old “Mendoza” and was merely an innocent security guard with no connections to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) or the Communist Party of the Philippines. “Mendoza,” who was never arrested, is a peace talks consultant for the NDFP.
“From the start it was clear that Panesa had no links to the Communist Party nor was he ‘Mendoza’ as the military claimed,” explained Estanislao. “The human rights alliance Karapatan, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, and his family were able to provide identification, birth certificates, job verification, and other evidence to actually show the military that Panesa was who everyone said he was.”
“Yet despite all of this the AFP and the regime of Noynoy Aquino turned a blind eye to Panesa’s plight and closed their ears to the facts,” continued Estanislao. “This entire ordeal was utterly unnecessary and shows the rotten and corrupt core of the AFP and Aquino. Instead of admitting that their intelligence was faulty and that they had the wrong man the military amped up its black propaganda on Panesa and tried to extract a confession out of him through torture. They even used his case as an example of how the so-called counterinsurgency campaign, Oplan Bayanihan (OpBay), was actually working and even ‘rewarded’ P5.6 million to an ‘informant’ leading to his arrest.”
The human rights alliance Karapatan has noted that the “rewards” are actually a money making scheme by the AFP as the millions of pesos in “rewards” are mostly handed over to military assets that the AFP claims to be “concerned citizens” or “informants.”
“In light of the outcome of today, through the Court of Appeals, one has to seriously question anything that comes from the press office and spokespeople of the AFP regarding alleged New Peoples’ Army ‘surrenderees,’ million peso ‘rewards,’ and alleged ‘communist leaders.’” Said Estanislao.
The case of Panesa and his release on the International Day of the Disappeared highlights the moral bankruptcy of the Aquino Regime, his security apparatus, and of OpBay. Panesa was one of the 540 victims of illegal arrest and detention which has become rampant under Aquino due to his so called “humanitarian” counterinsurgency program OpBay.
Not only have there been 540 cases of illegal arrest and detention there have been 142 cases of extrajudicial killings and 17 cases of enforced disappearances. With the most recent killings and disappearance happening within the last nine days.
On August 21st, just nine days before the International Day of the Disappeared, Nueva Vizcaya anti-mining activist, and Katribu Partylist member, Bryan Epa, was illegally arrested and then disappeared by the PNP making him the 17th desaparecido under the Aquino regime.
Just two days later, in Davao del Sur, Lumad chieftain Anting Freay, 60, and his son, 16-year old Victor, were gunned down in a hail of bullets from the AFP’s 39th Infantry Battalion at their home. The soldiers approached the Freay house and laid down heavy fire on Anting while his wife, Kiit, and his two younger children were able to escape. Victor, who rushed to his father’s aid to see if he was still alive, was shot at least 18 times by the soldiers.
The Freay family has long been organizing their indigenous community against the Xstrata-SMI mining project which is encroaching on their tribal lands and is in danger of displacing whole communities.
“It is clear that Aquino and the AFP are merely paying lip service to human rights on this International Day of the Disappeared while state security forces continue to forcefully disappear critics of the Aquino regime and, more often than not, resort to extrajudicial killings and murderous rampages” stated Estanislao. “The actions against Panesa, Bryan Epa, and the Freay family make it clear that Aquino is not committed to human rights and instead is moving his regime on a openly fascist path by using illegal arrest and detention, extrajudicial killings, and enforced disappearances to solidify his rule and to squash any forms of legitimate and legal dissent.”
SF CHRP laments the ever worsening human rights crisis in the Philippines on this International Day of the Disappeared and is calling on all like-minded individuals and organizations to hold the Aquino regime responsible for its human rights abuses. SF CHRP is also calling for the ending of Oplan Bayanihan as it has done nothing but to increasing human rights abuses, such as enforced disappearances, against the Filipino people.