Filipino journalist arrested in ‘mistaken identity’ case

Filipino journalist Fidelina Margarita Valle was arrested June 9, released nine hours later is a case of ‘mistaken identity’. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in condemning the arrest and demanding a thorough investigation of how and why she was detained.

Fidelina Margarita Valle who was arrested in a case of mistaken identity.

Fidelina Margarita Valle, a columnist with Davao Today, was at the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental province, about to board a flight when he was detained by officers from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG). She was detained for nine hours in Pagadian City, about 200 kilometres away from Laguindingan Airport. Upon her release, the CIDG admitted that the arrest was the result of mistaken identity.

The CIDG officers arrested Valle at 10.30 am using the warrant issued against Elsa Renton, who uses the aliases Tina Maglaya and Fidelina Margarita Valle, a subject of a manhunt for several crimes. The arrest warrant for arson was issued in 2006, whilst the warrant for multiple murder with quadruple frustrated murder and damage to government property was issued in 2011.

Valle was on her way back to Davao City after attending a workshop-training in Cagayan de Oro. Valle is well-respected journalist in the Philippines, working as a journalist since the 1980s and actively reporting various issues in Mindanao. She is one of the pioneers of Media Mindanao News Service. She then became an administrative officer for MindaNews in 2001 and a writer for Sunstar Davao until 2018. Besides journalist, Valle is also actively involved in community development work and advocating for human rights in Mindanao.

NUJP has considered the arrest of Valle not a lawful operation but a criminal abduction of a journalist. NUJP added that the abduction could have had dire, even fatal, consequences. The organisation has demanded the police and military personnel involved in this inexcusable travesty and their superiors be prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law.

How else do authorities explain why Ms. Valle was held incommunicado for hours even as the police issued a statement saying she was facing multiple crimes from a decade ago, only to admit they had the wrong person? This is the equivalent of shoot now, ask questions later,” NUJP said.

The IFJ said: "The arrest of Valle has been added to the growing list of violence against journalists in the Philippines. The abuse of critical journalists has become the new normal. It should not. A full investigation into why these officers arrested her should be undertaken. We also call the authorities to respect the rights of journalists and stop all the types of intimidation of journalists.”

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