By JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
A CAMP Alagar official yesterday said police officers made a mistake and violated the rights of a Davao-based columnist who was arrested at the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental Sunday.
Online news portal Davao Today columnist Margarita Valle, 61, was arrested by agents of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Region 9 while she was waiting for her flight back home at the Laguindingan Airport after giving a writers’ training in this city over the weekend.
She was released hours later in Iligan City after being brought to Pagadian City where the police supposedly realized that they arrested the wrong person.
Lt. Col. Surki Sereñas, Camp Alagar spokesperson, said Valle could sue those who arrested her.
“The charges are not trumped up. It is a court-issued (warrant of arrest). The person arrested was just not the right person. Our bad! The arrested person, whose rights were violated, can file charges anytime,” Sereñas said.
He said those who arrested Valle should face the consequences of their action, pointing out that while they literally took the “extra mile” in performing their duty, they cannot be condoned for the “wrong”they have done.
Valle’s son Rius said the columnist has consulted with lawyers for the next step she planned to take following her release from the custody of the CIDG.
Police said Valle had been brought to the CIDG office in Pagadian for “verification and identification.” There, the officers realized that it was a case of mistaken identity.
The warrant, issued Judge Bernadette Paredes-Encinareal of the Regional Trial Court 10th Judicial Region, Branch 36 based in Calamba, Misamis Occidental, was for multiple murder with quadruple frustrated murder and damage to government property, according to a spot report obtained by reporters from Radyo ni Juan station.
Police said the columnist was set free after a witness confirmed that Valle, although bearing a “strong resemblance” to a wanted person, was not the actual subject of the arrest warrant issued for a certain Elsa Renton a.k.a. Tina Maglaya and “Fidelina Margarita Valle.”
“She was traumatized,” Rius said in a phone interview, adding that her mother was only able to call them up after six hours, after her cellphone was reportedly confiscated by the CIDG.
During her detention, Valle was considered in “incommunicado,” Rius noted — she was allegedly not allowed to communicate with her family and friends.
In between those hours, Rius said, “We did not know her whereabouts, she wasn’t given her right to a lawyer, she was not given due process.”
He said what happened to her mother was a “case of forced abduction.”
The National Union of Journalists (NUJP) condemned what it called Valle’s “abduction” and the CIDG’s “violation of her basic rights.”
“How else do authorities explain why Ms. Valle was held incommunicado for hours even as the police issued a statement saying she was facing multiple crimes from a decade ago, only to admit they had the wrong person? This is the equivalent of ‘shoot now, ask questions later,’” the NUJP national directorate said in a statement released yesterday.
The NUJP said Valle’s arrest could have had dire, even fatal, consequences.
“There is no lack of victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances to drive home this point,” the group said.