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Rights, media groups slam arrest of Filipino journalist

Arrest comes on heels of killing of another media worker in the Philippines last week
Rights, media groups slam arrest of Filipino journalist

Journalist Margarita Valle (second from right) speaks with human rights workers inside a police station in the Philippine city of Pagadian. Police arrested Valle, 61, after she was mistaken for a suspected communist rebel who is wanted for murder and arson. (Photo courtesy of Leah Agonoy)

Published: June 10, 2019 08:54 AM GMT
Updated: June 10, 2019 08:56 AM GMT

Human rights and media groups in the Philippines have condemned the arrest of a 61-year old journalist in the southern region of Mindanao.

Police arrested Margarita Valle, a columnist of the Davao Today newspaper on June 9 at the airport in Cagayan de Oro on a warrant for arson and multiple murder, that were later found to be for another person.

The police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group later admitted the mistake after holding Valle for about nine hours in the city of Pagadian.

Valle’s arrest came in the wake of the June 6 killing of an account executive of a government-run television station.

Adam Moraleta, 56, who was shot near his house in Holy Spirit village in Manila’s Quezon City.

In a statement, the National Press Club of the Philippines called on authorities for an "immediate resolution" to Moraleta's killing.

Moraleta was the third member of the Club to have been killed in the past five years.

"His killing comes both as a shock and a surprise for its seeming lack of compelling reason," said the group.

Valle, meanwhile, was later released to Pagadian Bishop Ronald Lunas.

Valle, whose full name is Fedelina Margarita Avellanosa Valle, was mistaken for Elsa Renton — also known as Tina Maglaya and Fidelina Margarita Valle, a suspected rebel wanted on a 2006 arrest warrant for arson and a 2011 arrest warrant for multiple murder.

Valle, a mother of four, was arrested while waiting for a flight to Davao after a training workshop in Cagayan de Oro.

She later told reporters that she was not harmed but complained that her rights were violated because she was not provided a lawyer.

The National Union of Journalist in the Philippines condemned the arrest, saying it adds to the growing incidents of intimidation against people with critical views of President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration.

"We believe the recent attack on her and other journalists is a clear twisted logic of the Duterte administration that foolishly believes in a conspiracy theory of people being linked to the Communist Party. Its using the same pretext and plot weaved by past administrations," read the union's statement.

The media group Altermidya "denounce[d] the unlawful arrest" of Valle.

"[Her] arrest was a clear case of harassment," said the group, adding that the "lame excuse of mistaken identity does not mitigate the illegal and preposterous arrest of Valle."

"If anything, the arrest only demonstrates the rampant abuse of power and impunity by state forces in Mindanao, and sends a message that they can take anyone prisoner," said the group.

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