Mistaken identity? Arrested journo writes to advocate for human rights

Margarita Valle in the custody of the police in Region 10. (Photo courtesy of CNN)

“All these are patent acts of tyranny, and we urge our fellow journalists, human rights advocates, and the public to continue resisting these abuses.”


MANILA — The Philippine police claimed that the arrest of Davao Today columnist Fidelina Margarita Valle is but a case of mistaken identity. Her family and various media groups, however, are not buying it.

Valle, who writes as Fides Avellanosa, was arrested on Sunday by police officers at the Laguindingan Airport in Cagayan de Oro while waiting for her flight home to Davao City.

She was reportedly taken to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) where she was held incommunicado for almost ten hours.

Also a writer for independent and award-winning online news service MindaNews, Valle wrote reports on various issues such as human rights, women, indigenous people, among others.

Her reports and opinion pieces are also being published by a local daily, SunStar.

Valle, in her reports, has called out the government for its abuses and blunders such as in her Davao Today column dubbed as Kanak Gamay na Kyatigaman (My Little Understanding).

In her recent column, she had given tribute Datu Kaylo Bontolan, where she showed her support to the Lumad’s plight for justice by saying “It is the ultimate curse of despotic regimes that choose to silence peoples’ voices rather than peaceably resolve internal conflict, to see the exact opposite of their intended effects. Propelled and emboldened by insatiable greed, the wicked never learn and are always condemned to repeat history.”

Before that, Valle had written numerous columns about the gross human rights violations against Lumad, and said that “the military complex against the indigenous communities all over Mindanao could never be justified by the Duterte administration that has finally succumbed to the dictates and the whims of its military masters.”

The Valle family, in a statement, said the journalist had been targeted because of her active work as a human rights defender standing up against the countless state-sponsored attacks in Mindanao, and condemned the case of ‘mistaken identity’ and called it nothing but the government’s ploy.

“Gingging’s case is not one of mistaken identity at all. She was a clear state target. Mistaken identity is but a ludicrous propaganda of the PNP in the advent of the public outrage and pressure to surface and release our Nanay Gingging,” said Valle’s son, Rius Valle in the family’s released statement.

Davao Today, along with other media groups, also condemned her arrest and the CIDG’s claim of ‘mistaken identity’ and believed that Valle’s arrest was only a part of the government’s plan of silencing those who continuously fight for rights and democracy.

Another form of attack on press freedom

Alternative news Davao Today said, in a statement released earlier today, that the climate of impunity has worsened in the Philippines. The online news site also said Valle’s arrest could also be another of the administration’s way of repressing and silencing its critics.

“Such moves would lay the ground for attacks against the media and community development workers,” said Davao Today.

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines cried foul and called out military personnel’s ‘inexcusable’ arrest of Valle and demands for the authorities to explain the unnecessary detention of Valle, especially since CIDG has admitted that Valle’s arrest was a case of ‘mistaken identity.’

NUJP called Valle’s excessive detention as an ‘abduction’ and said in their statement that, “This is the equivalent of ‘shoot now, ask questions later.’ And the truth is that Ms. Valle’s abduction could have had dire, even fatal, consequences. There is no lack of victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances to drive home this point.”

CEGP pointed out that incidents like Valle’s arrest happen to members of the press, and human rights defenders as a way for state agents to exert their dominance, “This government will not stop in intimidating and harassing individuals because they are thirsty for power and they are afraid of those who are willing to offer their lives for the sake of the truth.”

Alternative media groups also believe that the arrest was a ‘clear case of harassment’ against Valle, and an obvious demonstration of how state agents in Mindanao abuse their power, ignoring due process and said that the arrest ‘sends the message that they (state agents) can take anyone prisoner.’

“We condemn these attempts to intimidate critical media into silence and instill fear among various sectors including human rights defenders. All these are patent acts of tyranny, and we urge our fellow journalists, human rights advocates, and the public to continue resisting these abuses.” (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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