61-year-old journo arrested in Mindanao, 65-year old peasant leader killed in Negros as spate of attacks continue

“The elderly are not exempt from the spate of attacks under the Duterte regime. Just this weekend, 61-year-old Margarita Valle was arrested by police operatives while at an airport in Cagayan de Oro, while 65-year-old Felipe Dacal-Dacal was gunned down within the vicinity of his own residence in Negros Occidental. Both have been active in their respective advocacies – Valle as a journalist and development worker and Dacal-Dacal as a peasant leader who fought for free land distribution and genuine agrarian reform. This is the latest in a string of abhorrent attacks against journalists and human rights defenders,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
On the morning of June 9, 2019, journalist and development worker Fidelina Margarita Valle was arrested at the Laguindingan Airport in Cagayan de Oro City. Valle was in Pagadian for a training-workshop and was on her flight home to Davao City when she was nabbed. Valle was reportedly in the custody of the regional police in Camp Abelon, Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur, and was released at 11:18pm last night. The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) flagged Valle’s arrest as a case of mistaken identity.

“The police say that Valle’s arrest was a case of mistaken identity, but we do not accept this ruse. This is a case of harassment not only targeted against Valle, but to activists and journalists in the country. It is a message of orchestrated intimidation and the deliberate use of legal processess to justify political persecution and trumped-up charges,” Palabay said.

She added that Valle has been in police custody for more than 10 hours. “Valle suffers from acute asthma, hypertension, and other ailments. The distressed call that she was able to make prior to her arrest indicated that she was taken forcefully. Moreover, her 10 hours in custody renders her vulnerable to different forms of violations, including interrogations, and psychological and physical torture. The police operatives involved in Valle’s arrest should be held accountable for this incident. The PNP must be reminded that they are not free to violate people’s rights, not even under the context of martial law,” Palabay explained.

Meanwhile, in Escalante City, Negros Occidental, another member of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) was gunned down at around 8pm on June 8. Felipe Dacal-Dacal, 65, was killed by a gunman, identified to be a military agent, while within his own residence. According to initial reports, the perpetrator visited the victim’s house three times to “convince” him to stop joining rallies.

Members of NFSW have been subjected to multiple incidents of red-tagging, among other forms of rights violations.

“The killing of Dacal-Dacal is indicative of the continuing and worsening human rights crisis in Negros and the rest of the country. This is on top of the operations under the Synchronized Enhanced Managing of Police Operations (SEMPO). These violations brought about by military and police operations have continuously resulted to adverse impacts on residents, including women, children and the elderly,” Palabay added.

“Mindanao is under martial law, and Negros is among the regions declared by Memorandum No. 32 as under a state of emergency. Certainly, there is an orchestrated and underhanded move to normalize repressive policies in the country,” Palabay concluded.