STATEMENT | On the Arrest of Columnist Margarita Valle

Jun. 09, 2019

Statement by Davao Today

The police arrested Davao Today columnist Margarita Valle on Sunday morning, June 9 while on the way to board for her flight at the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental province.

Valle was on the way back home to Davao City after attending a training-workshop in Cagayan de Oro City.

Elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police in Region 9 (PNP-CIDG-9) served as warrant of arrest against Valle for Multiple Murder, Quadruple Frustrated Murder, and Damage to Government Property. The warrant was issued by a local court in Calamba, Misamis Occidental dated December 29, 2011 with no bail recommended. CIDG-9 also served a warrant of arrest for Arson against Valle issued by a court in Pagadian City dated September 4, 2006 with Php24,000 bail.

Authorities said Valle, whom they identified as a certain Elsa Renton alias Tina Maglaya, was subject of a manhunt under Oplan Pagtugis.

The PNP-CIDG-9 also accused Valle, under DND-DILG (Department of National Defense-Department of Interior and Local Government) Joint Order Number 14-2012 of being an affiliate of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP).

The arrest of Valle is ludicrous and baseless. Elements of PNP-CIDG-9 took Valle by force at the Laguindingan Airport and held incommunicado.

For us, the claim of authorities against the person of Valle was preposterous, baseless and without solid evidence. They carried out the arrest to the detriment of Valle’s person and put her life into great danger.

Valle’s work experience extends to various fields of human interests. For over 20 years now, she worked as media consultant for various international non-government organizations (NGOs), such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other local private groups that do research, documentation, monitoring of projects and evaluation.

As a columnist, she is into active journalistic writing with several feature stories on the lives of the people of Mindanao, especially the Indigenous Peoples (IPs). She was deeply involved in media work for development among grassroots organizations and human rights groups.

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.” The operations, under “Tokhang” were deadly and bloody that killed thousands of individuals under questionable circumstances.

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.

On the evening of June 9, we received information that the police will release Margarita Valle anytime, as a “witness” has already surfaced, claiming that Valle is not the same person subject to the warrants used for her arrest.

We feel afraid of the dangerous actions of the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Such moves would lay the ground for attacks against the media and community development workers.

As we condemn the arrest of Valle, we also call on the government to review its guidelines on serving arrest warrants and searches. Mistakes, such as what had happened to Valle may happen again and subject anyone to human rights violations.

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