By Martin Sadongdong
The Philippine National Police (PNP) encouraged Monday a Davao City-based lady columnist to file charges against the police officers who made a wrongful arrest on her at an airport in Misamis Oriental.
Police General Oscar Albayalde, PNP Chief, said they will be “very glad” to assist veteran journalist Fidelina Margarita Valle, 60, if in case she decides to pursue charges against the cops who wrongfully arrested her.
Valle, a columnist at Davao Today, was served with warrants of arrest (WOA) by joint police and military units led by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG)-Zamboanga del Sur Provincial Field Unit for multiple murder with quadruple frustrated murder and damage to government property; and arson at the Laguindingan Airport around 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
The arrest warrant for multiple murder, which has no bail, was issued by Judge Bernadette Paredes-Encinareal of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) 10th Judicial Region, Branch 36 in Calamba, Misamis Oriental dated Dec. 20, 2011.
Meanwhile, the arrest warrant for arson was issued by Judge Aniceto Galon Jr. of the RTC 9th Judicial Region, Branch 20 in Pagadian City dated Sept. 4, 2006 with a bail recommendation of P24,000.
However, the PNP said the arrest was a case of mistaken identity after an informant told the police Valle was not the actual subject of the warrants and only had a “major resemblance” with the suspect, who was identified as Elsa Renton, alias Tina Maglaya.
“If she feels violated, we’ll be very glad to assist her. If the manner of the arrest was wrong or if there were violations on her part while she was being arrested, if she has a complaint, then we will not hesitate to file charges against our own people,” Albayalde told reporters in a press briefing at Camp Crame.
Police Major General Amador Corpus, CIDG director, said Valle was released from the detention facility of the CIDG-Zamboanga del Sur around 9:30 p.m.
He also insisted that the operation, which was referred to them by their counterparts from the military, was a “normal police procedure.”
“Our [military] counterparts sought police assistance in the service of the warrant of a high-profile personality. It was a normal police procedure,” Corpus said.
But Albayalde said he directed Corpus to get to the bottom of the case to determine the loopholes in the police operation or if indeed there was a failure of intelligence in the operation.
The PNP Chief also said Valle’s wrongful arrest was an “isolated case” which happens “very rarely.”
“One thing good here is that at least, even the other law enforcement agencies probably knows now that she was not the suspect in those crimes so they would be very careful. At least, she was able to clear herself,” Albayalde said.
“We will look into the possible lapses here so that it will not happen again,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Davao Today condemned Valle’s arrest which it said was “ludicrous and baseless” and carried out “to the detriment of Valle’s person and put her life into great danger.”
According to them, Valle was just waiting for her flight back to Davao City after attending a training-workshop in Cagayan de Oro City when she was arrested.
“We firmly believe that individuals must not be subjects to mistaken identity. We have already seen and proven its dangers and perils, especially when the administration launched its ‘Oplan Tokhang,'” said the Davao Today in a statement.
“The climate of impunity has worsened in the Philippines, not only with the number of deaths carried on by the infamous drug war but also through other forms of repression aimed to silence the critics of the administration,” it said.
“We feel afraid of the dangerous actions of the PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Such moves would lay the ground for attacks against the media and community development workers,” it added.
Davao Today also called on the government to review its guidelines on serving arrest warrants and searches so that wrongful arrests will not happen anymore.
“Mistakes, such as what had happened to Valle, may happen again and subject anyone to human rights violations,” it concluded.
Valle had also been a columnist for Sunstar Davao and a media consultant for various international non-government organizations (NGOs) and local groups.
Davao Today said Valle was deeply involved in media work for development among grassroots organizations and human rights groups.