Davao columnist 'mistakenly arrested' to file charges vs police

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 12) — A Davao-based columnist 'mistakenly arrested' for murder will press charges against the police, her lawyer said Wednesday.

Kathy Panguban of the National Union of People’s Lawyers said the group will file arbitrary detention charges against the police investigative unit that conducted the arrest of Margarita Valle.

“We will not take this another brazen attack and outright disregard of human rights lightly,” Panguban, one of Valle's legal counsels, said in a media briefing.

Valle, 61, also faced the media and vented her anger at the police.

“Naghalo-halo na ‘yung galit ko at sama ng loob. Madali lang naman akong hanapin, bakit ganoon naging treatment nila sa akin? Ginawa akong kriminal. Naging kriminal ako doon. Nagmugshot ako, fingerprint ako,” Valle said.

[Translation: My anger has been mixed with resentment. They locate me easily so why did they treat me that way? I was treated like a criminal. They took a mugshot. and my fingerprints.]

She called her experience a form of “torture.”

Valle said she was appalled by the blatant disrespect of her rights. She recalled that the police insisted on taking her mugshot and fingerprints despite her proving she was not the suspect through her identification documents and articles online. They also did not allow her to read the arrest warrant, she added.

The columnist was arrested on Sunday at the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental. She was released after an over 12-hour detention. A witness said she just resembled the suspect.

P/Gen. Oscar Albayalde, PNP chief, earlier said the police will look into the arrest to determine possible flaws in their case buildup.

However, Panguban said they do not trust that the police will be fair in their investigation.

The Duterte administration has faced criticisms and accusations against supposedly suppressing press freedom. He has called out a journalist, banned her from covering presidential events and even detained another for alleged cyber libel.

In February, Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa was arrested over a cyber libel case. The arrest made rounds in media outlets worldwide, provoking journalists and human rights groups. Ressa is facing 11 complaints and cases and has posted bail eight times.

A report by the International Federation of Journalists in 2018 revealed there have been 12 journalists and media personnel who have been killed during Duterte’s term.

Recently, the President also said he would now be “choosy” in accepting interviews because he no longer trusts the media. Duterte reacted to news about people close to him who were linked to the illegal drug trade.

Malacanang had maintained that the killings and arrests of journalists were not work-related.