OMB affirms dismissal of charges vs. police officers in 2019 arrest of Davao journalist

Published August 12, 2021, 2:47 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

Office of the Ombudsman

The Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) has denied Davao City-based journalist Fidelina Margarita Valle’s motion to reconsider its ruling that cleared several police and military officers of criminal charges in connection with her arrest at the Misamis Oriental airport on June 9, 2019.

Valle claimed in her complaint that she was arrested despite her protests and brought first to the Iligan City police station where she was ordered to wear a detainee’s orange shirt.

She said that when she was asked to sign a piece of paper, she noticed the name attached was “Elsa Renton.” She said she then insisted that she is not “Elsa Renton,” but all she got were snide remarks and accusations. She also said that one of the policemen even said that “Elsa Renton” is but one of her aliases.

Valle said she was then brought to Camp Abelon in Pagadian City, where she started to break down because of frustration and exhaustion. She was finally allowed to talk to her friends, and around 10 p.m., several members of the church and media came to her aid.

Before she left 12 hours later, she said a police officer talked to her and explained that she had a “huge semblance” with “Elsa Renton.” She added there was no explanation on her release.

Valle would have wanted the police and military officers indicted for violations of Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), on Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention; Article 124 of the RPC on Arbitrary Detention; Republic Act No. 9745, the Anti-Torture Act of 2009; RA 7438, on Rights of Arrested Persons; and gross misconduct, grave abuse of authority, and conduct unbecoming of a public official.

On Aug. 10, 2020, the Ombudsman issued a resolution that dismissed the charges against Brig. Gen. Jacinto R. Bareng, Lt. Col. Marlowe Patria, Gen. Oscar D. Albayalde, Col. Bernard M. Banac, PCol. Redentor Lantaca Retusto, PCol. John G. Guyguyon, PCSupt. Modhin Pantaran, PLTCol. Mardito G. Anguluan, PSSupt. Michael M. Pareja, PCol. Raniel M. Valones, PMaj. Alfredo de Guzman Lim, PCapt. Rorye V. Tabuclin, PSMSgt. Cristina V. Langit, Patrolman Victor John B. Canoy, and Police Executive Master Sergeant Ricky C. Felipe.

On the other hand, the same resolution held PCol. Tom Tuzon and PCapt. MOH. Madzdie-Aziz Mukaram administratively liable for simple neglect of duty and imposed on them the penalty of three-month suspension without pay.

Valle’s motion for reconsideration was found “unmeritorious” by the OMB with a ruling that she failed to adduce newly-discovered evidence which could materially affect the outcome of the case.

“Matters raised in the complainant-movant’s motion are mere rehash of the arguments that this Office has already considered and passed upon,” the resolution stated.

The OMB also denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Tuzon and Mukaram, who pointed out their respective 26 and 13 years of service in the Philippine National Police (PNP).

It ruled that the “length of service is not a magic word that, once invoked, will automatically be considered as a mitigating circumstance in favor of the party invoking it.”

“This Office reminds respondents that every public officer is bound to perform the duties of his office faithfully and to use reasonable skill and diligence and to act primarily for the benefit of the public. In the discharge of duties, a public officer is to use prudence, caution, and attention which careful persons use in the management of his/her affairs,” the resolution stated.