‘Ginawa nila akong kriminal’: Margarita Valle slams police for mistaken arrest

Jene-Anne Pangue
Margarita Valle's abduction, according to various media groups, is an attempt to silence journalists

POLICE MISTAKE. Mindanao-based journalist Margarita Valle, who was mistakenly arrested by authorities in Laguindingan Airport, Misamis Oriental, faces the media in Quezon City on June 12, 2019. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Davao-based journalist Margarita “Gingging” Valle on Wednesday, June 12, appeared before the media to recount the “torture” that she experienced during her mistaken arrest

On June 9, the 61-year-old journalist was nabbed by cops and soldiers at the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental using a warrant of arrest issued against Elsa Renton, alias Tina Maglaya and Fidelina Margarita Valle, for charges of “multiple murder with quadruple frustrated murder,” destruction of government property, and arson. 

The police later on claimed this to be a case of mistaken identity after a witness confirmed that Valle only has a “major resemblance” to the actual suspect. 

Valle’s legal counsel, Kathy Panguban of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, said that they are considering filing criminal and administrative charges against the members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Crime Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) who arrested and violated her human rights. 

“She was arbitrarily detained and deprived of her liberty for 12 hours without any probable cause,” Panguban added.

INCOMMUNICADO FOR 8 HOURS. Margarita Valle recalls her experience in a press briefing on June 12, 2019, in Quezon City. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Valle recalled that she didn’t get to hold the supposed warrant and was only shown the name of the suspect that’s different from hers.

“Simula pa lang, I asserted my right. Pinakita ko yung mga IDs, lahat. Hindi ako ‘yang kriminal na ‘yan, kung sino man ‘yan. Tapos naisip ko hindi ko naman talaga pangalan ‘yan. Parang sumagi sa isip ko na ako talaga yung gusto nilang kunin. Eh bakit ayaw nila ipakita, ipabasa yung arrest warrant?” Valle expressed.

(I asserted my right from the very start. I showed them my identification cards, everything. I am not that criminal they’re looking for, whoever that is. And I also thought that what’s there[the name in the arrest warrant] isn’t even mine. It occurred to me that they really wanted to get me. But why won’t they show the arrest warrant?)

Violated rights

Valle also recalled that during her arrest, she wasn’t given the opportunity to consult a lawyer and was held incommunicado for 8 hours.  She also claimed that the arresting officers did not inform her exactly where they were headed.

“Para sa akin torture yun eh. Torture kasi hindi ko alam kung ano ang mangyayari sa akin, ano ang sunod na mangyayari (For me, it was a torture because I didn’t know what was going to happen to me, what will be happen to me next),” Valle said.

From the airport, Valle was taken to the Iligan City police station and then at Camp Abelon in Pagadian City, where she was released after a 12 hour-detention.

“Bakit ganoong treatment ang ginawa sa akin..ginawa nila akong kriminal. Naging criminal ako doon eh, nag mugshot ako, fingerprint ako. Ano bang klase yan, eh makikita naman ako sa media…hindi ako kriminal (Why was I treated that way? They made me a criminal. I became a criminal there, I had a mugshot, fingerprint. What kind of process is that? They can see me in the media. I am not a criminal),” Valle emphasized.

She also said that the police offered her food, but she couldn’t even swallow it for fear of her life. Following her arrest, she got hypertensive and experienced difficulty breathing. 

Umaatake na yung asthma ko, Nahihirapan na rin akong huminga, pero hindi nila napansin yun eh, na ganon na pala yung nafefeel ko (I had an asthma attack, but they [the police] didn’t notice it, they didn’t know what I was feeling),” Valle said. 

Attack on press freedom?

Several media organizations said the mistaken arrest was an attempt to silence journalists like Valle who has been in the media industry for more than 30 years. 

“Hindi madaling matanggap na mistaken identity lang ang nangyari ky Valle… ang context ng arrest ay repression ng mga journalists (It’s not easy to accept that it’s just mistaken identity… the context of the arrest is about the repression of journalists),” Rhea Padilla of Altermidya Network said.

Dabet Panelo of National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also emphasized that what happened to Valle was not an arrest but an “abduction” and would call for a legal battle.

“Hindi madali ang ganitong pinagdadaanan ang ganitong nangyayari sa media. Sana hindi natin bitawan ang kaso. (What the media is going through right now is not easy. I hope that we will not just give up on the case),“ Panelo said pointing out that only few are convicted despite the various media killings happening in the country.  

Inday Espina-Varona of Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI) pointed out that the story of Valle is what exactly happens to people when due process is violated and legal processes are short cut. She also said that Valle’s mistaken arrest is not an isolated case.

“Hindi nag-iisa si Ms. Valle, marami journalists na ang na red-tagged, o na-harass. (Ms. Valle is not alone in this battle. There are many journalists who are also linked red tagging or are also harassed),” Varona said.  

“The most dangerous thing for us to do right now is to think that only certain people deserve to have their rights protected…Today, it may be Ms. Valle, but tomorrow it could be you,” Varona added.

The groups expressed their support for Valle as she is set to file charges against the police responsible for her mistaken arrest. – Rappler.com

Jene-Anne Pangue

Jene-Anne Pangue is a community and civic engagement specialist of MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm. Her involvement with Rappler started when she became a mover in 2014 and an intern in 2015. Since then, she learned the importance of building communities of action for social good as she continues to work with movers and doers across the country.