Zamboanga police operatives apologize for mistaken arrest of Davao columnist

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Davao columnist Margarita Valle was arrested in the Laguindingan airport in Misamis Oriental on Sunday for charges including quadruple frustrated murder based on a warrant issued by a Misamis Oriental regional court in December 2011. She was released on the same day after a witness said Valle only resembled the suspect.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 10) — The Philippine National Police - Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of Zamboanga Peninsula apologized for mistakenly nabbing a Davao-based columnist who looks like a murder suspect.

PCol. Tom Tuzon, PNP-CIDG regional chief, issued a public apology Monday over the arrest of 61-year-old Margarita Valle at the Laguindingan airport on Sunday.

"Due to uncertainties and less than 100% assurance of your identity from our informant, we have brought you to [the] CIDG Office [in] Pagadian City that caused you unnecessary anxiety," Tuzon said in his apology.

Tuzon said the police operatives should have released Valle at the airport if they heeded her statements regarding her identity.

"We should have conducted validation prior to the arrest," he added. "With this mistaken identity [case], we are going to take steps to ensure the situation does not repeat itself.

PNP Gen. Oscar Albayalde also assured the public Monday the mistaken arrest was an "isolated incident."

Valle's arrest was met with concern and statements of protest from media groups already critical of the Duterte administration's supposed attacks against press freedom, and scathing statements against journalists and human rights defenders.

He said the investigation will identify flaws in the case build-up.

Albayalde maintained that although mistaken arrests may not be new, what is important is that the police respect the rights of the individuals they apprehend.

“What is good thing here is kung mag-aresto ka ng tao whether it’s real or talagang totoo ‘yun ang inaaresto mo or a mistaken identity is that you do not violate their rights,” he argued.

[Translation: What the good thing here is, if you arrest someone whether they’re the real suspect or it was a mistaken identity, you do not violate their rights.]

He explained that the mistake may have occurred because the police did not know the features of the suspect and had to rely on the complainant’s account of the suspect’s appearance.

“Our law enforcers, hindi naman talaga kilala ‘yung subject. It is the complainant…ang nakakakilala 'yung sa subject usually and ito they (police) based their actions on the informant and I don’t know if that informant is the same as the complainant. Hindi yata so kaya nangyari ‘yan,” the PNP chief explained.

[Translation: Our law enforcers do not personally know the suspects. It is the complainant who knows who the suspects are usually and the police based their actions on the informant and I don’t know if the informant is the same as the complainant. Probably not, that’s why that happened.]

Albayalde said they will investigate the incident whether or not Valle decides to file a complaint against them.

Valle was arrested in the Laguindingan airport in Misamis Oriental on Sunday for charges including quadruple frustrated murder based on a warrant issued by a Misamis Oriental regional court in December 2011. She was released on the same day after a witness said Valle only resembled the suspect.