Karapatan backs journalist Margarita Valle in filing criminal, administrative raps vs. police, military

On July 4, 2019, veteran journalist and Davao Today columnist Margarita Valle filed criminal charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention, arbitrary detention, violations under the Anti-Torture Act and violation of Miranda Rights against officers of the police and the military who illegally arrested and detained her for more than 10 hours. Administrative charges of gross misconduct, grave abuse of authority, and conduct unbecoming of a public official were also lodged against officers of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Region 9, 102nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.

The PNP has initially released a statement apologizing for Valle’s arrest, calling it a case of “mistaken identity.”

“Karapatan supports journalist and development worker Margarita Valle in seeking accountability for her ordeal. This should remind the police and the military that they are not above the law, and that their words and justifications are not stamped with finality but can be questioned and challenged. Never did we believe that this was a case of mistaken identity. Valle was not only a journalist, but a development worker and an activist who has struggled alongside groups and communities now red-tagged by the government. What transpired in June 9 was a targeted and deliberate attack,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

Palabay likewise strongly insisted that this was a case of harassment and intimidation. “Valle’s son is a known spokesperson of the Save our Schools network, an alliance which has continuously exposed attacks on indigenous schools in Mindanao. This is not a coincidence, but a message of orchestrated intimidation,” she added.

Maragarita Valle, 61, was arrested by a team of CIDG operatives, among other law enforcement agents, while at the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental last June 9, 2019. She was kept incommunicado at Camp Abelon in Pagadian City. When she was finally surfaced by her captors hours later, the PNP then reasoned that they mistook her for Elsa Rento, the person named in the warrant they used to justify Valle’s arrest.

Lawyers from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers assisted Valle in the filing of said charges at the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Officers (MOLEO).

“The forceful manner of Valle’s arrest, her being kept incommunicado, and the PNP’s string of lies about this being a case of mistaken identity, are all indicative of the ruthlessness of state forces and their brazen neglect for people’s rights during arrests, especially under martial law. The public clamor that ensued after news of Valle’s arrest forced the police and the military to yield,” Palabay emphasized.