By JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
THE human rights watchdog Karapatan slammed the government for targeting the elderly following the arrest of Davao City-based columnist Margarita Valle in Misamis Oriental and the killing of land reform advocate Felipe Dacal-Dacal in Negros Occidental.
“The elderly are not exempt from the spate of attacks under the Duterte regime,” Karapatan said in a statement.
Both victims have been active in respective advocacies – Valle, 61, as journalist and development worker, and Dacal-Dacal, 65, as a peasant leader who fought for free land distribution and genuine agrarian reform, the group noted.
Valle was arrested by a team of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) operatives from Zamboanga del Sur and other law enforcement agents while waiting for her flight back home at the Laguindingan Airport in Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental, on Sunday morning.
Dacal-Dacal was shot to death by a lone gunman inside his house in Escalante City, Negros Occidental on Saturday.
Valle’s apprehension and Dacal-Dacal’s killing are the latest in a string of abhorrent attacks against journalists and human rights defenders, said Karapatan secretary Cristina Palabay.
“The police say that Valle’s arrest was a case of mistaken identity, but we do not accept this ruse,” Palabay said, “this is a case of harassment not only targeted against Valle, but to activists and journalists in the country.”
She said what happened to Valle is a “message of orchestrated intimidation and the deliberate use of legal processes to justify political persecution and trumped-up charges.”
Valle, who Palabay said was in police custody for more than 10 hours, suffers from acute asthma, hypertension, and other ailments.
Aside from her medical condition, the sexagenarian also suffered from anguish during her detention at Camp Abelon in Pagadian City.
“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,” she said.
Palabay said the police operatives involved in Valle’s arrest “should be held accountable for his incident. The [Philippine National Police] must be reminded that they are not free to violate people’s rights, not even under context of martial law.”