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Philippines

Journalist arrested by mistake filing charges vs police

MANILA, Philippines — Davao journalist Margarita Valle is filing charges against the policemen who arrested her by mistake and held her incommunicado for more than 12 hours on Sunday, her lawyer said on Wednesday.

“[Valle] was arbitrarily detained and deprived of liberty for more than 12 hours without any lawful cause,” Kathy Manguban of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said at a news conference in Quezon City.

“As people’s lawyers, we [do not take a] brazen attack and disregard [for] human rights lightly,” she said.

Manguban said Valle would bring criminal and administrative charges against the policemen who violated her human rights.

Mistaken identity

Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) agents arrested Valle, 61, at the airport in Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental province, while she was waiting for her flight home to Davao City on Sunday morning and took her to their office in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur province, about 200 kilometers to the southwest.

They said they mistook Valle, whose full name is Fidelina Margarita Avellanosa Valle, for Elsa Renton, alias Tina Maglaya and Fidelina Margarita Valle, who has been wanted since 2006 for arson, multiple murder and frustrated murder.

The Sunstar and Davao Today columnist was released late on Sunday, after the police said they  realized their mistake.

On Monday, Malacañang said the PNP owed Valle an apology.

But the PNP chief, Police Gen. Oscar Albayalde, offered no apology to the journalist. Instead, he told Valle to file charges against the police if she felt that her rights were violated.

She did.

At the news conference on Wednesday, Valle said the CIDG officers did not explain to her why she was being arrested and where they were taking her.

‘Am I a criminal?’

She said she showed the officers her press ID and demanded to see the warrant of arrest, but the policemen did not show it to her.

“I was taken to a police station in Iligan where my mug shots and fingerprints were taken. They made me wear a shirt labeling me as a CIDG detainee. And I thought, ‘Why would I wear something like that? Am I a criminal?’” Valle said.

“When I finally saw the warrant, I noticed that it was a different name and they added the surname Valle. It was an arson case,” she said.

Valle said she was taken to the CIDG office in Pagadian, where she finally got to call her family and colleagues in the press around 10 p.m. on Sunday.

“What happened to me was a form of torture because I had no knowledge of what could happen to me the whole time,” she said.

Valle said her blood pressure shot up while she was under police custody.

She said her whole body ached from the long travel to Pagadian and that she had an attack of asthma.

‘Abduction’

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

(NUJP) called Valle’s arrest an “abduction” and slammed the CIDG for violating her basic rights.

In a statement on Sunday, the NUJP said the PNP’s excuse that Valle’s arrest was a case of mistaken identity was unacceptable.

“This is the equivalent of shoot now, ask questions later,” the group said. —Mariejo S. Ramos

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