Fate dealt a cruel hand to Baldev Singh when his simple “yes” to Philippine authorities, given in response to a question he couldn’t comprehend due to a language barrier, led to his wrongful incarceration for five long years. This is the harrowing tale of Baldev Singh, a victim of mistaken identity who endured a nightmare in a Philippine jail but ultimately lived to recount his ordeal.
It all began in late 2018 when the 62-year-old carpenter, who had successfully run a furniture-making business in Sultanpur Lodhi, Kapurthala, for over three decades, embarked on a journey to the Philippines with aspirations of expanding his business. Little did he know that this trip would result in a five-year ordeal due to a case of mistaken identity.
Initially intending to return to India within two weeks after exploring business opportunities in the Philippines, Baldev Singh’s plans took a bizarre turn, leading to an unforeseen and prolonged stay in the foreign country.
Recounting the unfortunate incident, Baldev Singh shared with The Indian Express, “I had nearly boarded the return flight at the end of 2018 when suddenly police appeared on the aircraft and asked me to accompany them. I informed him about the incident, cautioning him that they might take my phone away and advising him to seek assistance from the Indian side to handle my case.”
Baldev Singh further explained that he couldn’t understand the language spoken by the authorities, and when they mentioned his name, he simply nodded in agreement.
Jaswinder Singh, Baldev Singh’s son, shared with The Indian Express that many customers of their furniture business who had settled in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, often suggested that his father explore business opportunities in the Philippines, where a significant Punjabi community resides.
Motivated by these recommendations, Baldev Singh obtained a visitor’s visa to the Philippines in November 2018 and stayed there with acquaintances who were knowledgeable about the local business environment.
However, on the day he was scheduled to return to India, Baldev Singh was arrested while on the flight, marking the beginning of his ordeal. It was discovered that he shared his name with another individual, Baldev Singh, who was involved in several criminal cases in the Philippines, leading to the case of mistaken identity. Baldev Singh explained, “They (the police) asked me questions that I didn’t understand, but I nodded ‘yes,’ which could have been interpreted as my involvement in a crime they were investigating when they mentioned my name.”
Jaswinder Singh and his sister, Kamaljit Kaur, made extensive efforts to seek assistance from the Punjabi community in Manila but encountered limited success. Seechewal highlighted the unjust imprisonment of Baldev Singh, who had suffered for more than four years due to mistaken identity.