Journalist recalls abduction over ‘mistaken identity’ one year ago

Jun. 09, 2020

Davao Today columnist Margarita Valle. (Photo courtesy of Kodao Productions)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – “Justice delayed, justice denied,” says Fidelina Margarita Valle, columnist for Davao Today, remembering her experience a year ago being taken by police agents at an airport.

Valle was waiting for her flight back to Davao City in Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental, when plainclothes officers took her by force without letting her read an arrest warrant. What followed was a 12-hour ordeal where she was held incommunicado and taken all the way to Camp Abelon, Pagadian City.

Valle later learned her captives were operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 9, who served her a warrant of arrest issued against an Elsa Renton alias Tina Maglaya for arson and multiple murder with quadruple frustrated murder and damage to government property. The operatives later inserted her name on their report.

Had it not for media groups pressuring the Philippine National Police to surface Valle, she would have been in jail facing trial over trumped up charges.

The CIDG Region 9 later apologized to Valle, saying her arrest was a case of “mistaken identity”. Then and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Oscar Albayalde downplayed the incident saying the mistakes happen “very rarely”.

But this did not stop Valle from filing complaints before the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices (MOLEO) section of the Office of the Ombudsman, which has jurisdiction over law enforcement officers.

Cases of kidnapping torture, violation of rights of arrested persons, serious illegal detention, and gross misconduct were filed against Police Colonels Tom Yuzon, Redentor Lantaca Retusto, John Guyguyon, and Michael Pareja, Brigadier General Modhin Panturan, Lieutenant Colonel Mardito Anguluan, Captain Madzdie-Aziz Mukaran; and other John and Jane Does that abducted her at the airport.

She also filed another complaint for torture, violation of rights of arrested persons, arbitrary detention, and gross misconduct against top officials General Albayalde, Brigadier General Jacinto Bareng, Lieutenant Colonel Marlowe Patria, and PNP spokesperson Colonel Bernard Banac.

“The journey to attain justice is a long wait but I am still hopeful,” Valle added.

But Valle’s trauma did not end there, as she was among those tagged as a “supporter” and “protector” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA) along with National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) regional officers in printed tarpaulins and leaflets circulating in Northern Mindanao.

The 62-year old Valle said these threats and the current news of more arrests keep her awake at night.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night thinking of many what-ifs and I become worried,” she said in an interview.

“I don’t know. I can’t find a word to describe how worst this situation right now. I recently watched the arrest of the Cebu 8 (student activists) and it made me cry,” she added.

The current attacks on journalists and other rights defenders made her recall her experience as a youth fighting the Martial Law dictatorship of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.

Valle graduated BA Communication Arts at the Ateneo de Davao University in 1982 where she honed her journalism skills as associate editor of Atenews, the student’s official publication. As a campus writer and later a correspondent for the independent Media Mindanao News Service, Valle joined other writers going to communities and villages to report cases of human rights violations against workers, peasants, youths, and urban poor.

Valle could not take away her fear on the government’s effort to pass the Anti-Terror Bill. She said this would push statistics on human rights violations higher.

“Nothing is really different when it comes to instilling fear among the people. From martial law to up to now that we have these efforts to silence the people, it’s really frightening,” Valle said.

Despite this, Valle sees that solidarity among the people is key to resist and fight the crackdown on people’s rights.

“We, the people, must uphold our Constitutional rights because no one will protect it from being railroaded now that the powers-that-be are desperate to hold on to their positions,” she said. (

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