Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has denounced as a “shameless act” the recent arrest and temporary detention of Davao City-based journalist Margarita Valle in a supposed case of mistaken identity meant to silence the messengers of truth.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, said this incident of an alleged “mistaken identity” has only shown that the present government will stop at nothing to silence an independent and critical press and stifle free expression.
“The unlawful arrest of Ms. Valle – which was an obvious attempt to intimidate her and the rest of the independent Philippine media – is both deplorable and unacceptable and should not be taken in silence,” she said.
“The excuse of mistaken identity that supposedly led to Ms. Valle’s arrest is simply inexcusable because it does not remove the fact that she was unlawfully and illegally arrested and was deprived of her right to due process,” added De Lima.
Valle, a community journalist and a development worker, was reportedly arrested by personnel of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 9 in Laguindingan Airport while waiting for her flight home to Davao City last June 9.
She was released after a nine-hour detention at Camp Abelon in Pagadian City, with authorities claiming that she was supposedly mistaken as communist rebel Elsa Renton who has standing arrest warrants for multiple murder and arson, among others.
The veteran journalist shared that the police officers arrested her without even letting her read the arrest warrant or call for a legal counsel. She is now mulling of filing criminal and administrative charges against the cops who violated her rights.
Aside from her work as a provincial journalist that includes Lumad and women’s issues, Valle is also active in advocacy and research work on human rights issues.
De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad, lamented how journalism and reporting the news in the Philippines have become more perilous under the presidency of Mr. Duterte.
“Even before Duterte wreaked havoc into our country, Philippines has been known to be a dangerous place for journalists because of its involvement in civil strife for a long time now,” she said.
“Pero magmula nung naghari-harian si Duterte sa Pilipinas, higit na tumindi ang pag-atake sa media dahil allergic ang presidenteng ito sa mga kritisismo na, kung tutuusin, normal naman talaga sa isang demokratikong bansa,” she added.
In her contribution to promoting journalists’ rights, De Lima filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1868 seeking to protect campus journalists against harassment and intimidation for the critical stances on local and national issues and policies they espouse in their respective school publications. She also filed SB No. 1860 which mandates additional insurance benefits for journalists, such as disability, health and hospitalization benefits and SB No. 197 which seeks to abolish the penalty of imprisonment in libel cases to allow media to perform their social responsibility of exposing misconduct without fear of being harassed.