CHR: 'Mistaken identity' arrest of columnist shows need for due diligence in operations

CHR: 'Mistaken identity' arrest of columnist shows need for due diligence in operations
Margarita Valle was arrested Sunday morning at the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental while waiting for her flight home to Davao City
NUJP, Facebook

MANILA, Philippines — The "mistaken" arrest of Davao Today columnist Margarita Valle is a reminder for police to exercise "utmost due diligence" in carrying out arrests, the Commission on Human Rights said Monday.

Valle was arrested Sunday morning at the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental on warrants for charges of multiple murder, quadruple frustrated murder and damage to government property. Police released her on Sunday night after a witness in the case said they arrested the wrong woman.

"Carrying out arrests must be done with utmost due diligence. The slightest mistake impacts the fundamental rights of the arrested person," CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia, a lawyer, said.

According to Davao Today and her son Rius, Valle was forcibly taken from the Laguindingan airport and "held incommunicado" for hours.

RELATED: PNP frees Davao Today columnist, says arrest a case of ‘mistaken identity’

PNP manual: Arrested suspects have right to communicate

According to the PNP Operations Manual, arresting officers are supposed to tell a person being arrested the reason for the arrest and to inform them of their rights. "Also, that he has the right to communicate with his lawyer or his immediate family and the right to physical examination," the manual reads.

Republic Act No. 7438, which defines the rights of people in government custody, also holds that people arrested or detained are allowed visits or conferences with, among others, members of their immediate family, as well as doctors, priests or religious ministers.

"The Constitution clearly outlines the standards on how [arrests] should be carried out, which law enforcement authorities must always abide in the exercise of their duty. In particular, the right to call or have access to a lawyer is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights," De Guia said.

"The mistaken arrest of Margarita Valle puts into question the PNP's manner and guidelines of serving arrest warrants. When fundamental rights are at stake, only the highest standards must be observed for the consequences could be irreversible," she also said.

Harassment, 'red-tagging'

She added that cases of mistaken identity, as the police claim the arrest of Valle was, "raise doubt and fears" because of reports of harassment and red-tagging and what she said was a "current climate of impunity" in the Philippines.

Davao Today is part of the Altermidya network, members of which have been tagged as either supporters of communist rebels or rebels themselves. 

De Guia said the CHR's regional offices in Northern Mindanao and the Zamboanga Peninsula have sent a quick response team to investigate and monitor the case.

In a press briefing on Monday morning, Police Gen. Oscar Albayalde, chief of the PNP, said if Valle has any complaints or feels that police did not follow procedure in her arrests, "we'll not hesitate to file charges against our people." 

According to a November 2018 investigation by the Philippine Daily Inquirer based on National Capital Region Police Office data, less than 15% of officers facing administrative cases in the unit ended up being demoted or dismissed from the service.

A majority of the 3,500 officers charged administratively since January 2016 were either returned to active duty or were on floating status.

RELATED: Red-tagging of CDO journalist hit




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