Filipino journalist to sue police for 'mistaken arrest'

Journalist union condemns incident, calls it an 'abduction attempt'
Filipino journalist to sue police for 'mistaken arrest'

Margarita Valle, a columnist with the Davao Today newspaper, at a press conference in Manila on June 12. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

A journalist arrested on June 9 after being “mistaken” for a wanted person in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao is to sue the police for illegal detention.

Margarita Valle, a columnist with the Davao Today newspaper, said police officers ignored her appeals to call friends to verify her identity and held her incommunicado for 12 hours.

She said officers also failed to read her her rights and refused a request to examine the warrant for her arrest.

"I will sue them," she said. "I presented my identification card when they accosted me but they ignored it," added Valle, a veteran journalist who has reported for faith-based groups in Mindanao.

"We need to fight back," she said. "Assertion is the key. Without assertion, they will run over us all," the journalist said.

"If they can do this to me, what can they do to others who are not journalists," she said. "I woke up today with the knowledge that I was so near death," she told without elaborating.

Valle said her experience was not an isolated incident because religious workers in Mindanao have become vulnerable to attacks because of their stand against human rights violations.

Valle has been involved with several faith-based groups in their educational programs for tribal youth.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, meanwhile, said the incident involving Valle was an "abduction attempt."

"It’s not isolated," agreed Dabet Panelo, secretary-general of the union. "Journalists in Mindanao have come under fire these last few years," she said.

"We are not going to take all this in silence. We are now consulting lawyers on the proper legal steps," she said.

The 61-year-old Valle was stopped and arrested by police and soldiers at the airport in Cagayan de Oro, in Misamis Oriental province on suspicion of committing arson and multiple murder.

The warrant, however, was later found to be for another person.

The police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in the city of Pagadian, where Valle was held, later admitted the mistake.

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