In­ex­cus­able

Sun Star Bacolod - - OPINION - TY­RONE VELEZ

IT IS hard to imag­ine what my friend, for­mer Sunstar colum­nist, jour­nal­ist and de­vel­op­ment worker Mar­garita Valle went through when she was taken by po­lice in Laguindin­gan Ai­port last Sun­day, June 9, 2019.

Ging­ging or Ma’am Ging, as friends, col­leagues and young writ­ers call her, is age 61. We share com­mon things from be­ing Ate­neo de Davao grad­u­ates and alumni of the stu­dent pa­per Ate­news (she dur­ing Mar­tial Law).

She is a writer, edi­tor, ad­vo­cate of many things in Min­danao, from peace for Moro and Lu­mad com­mu­ni­ties, to hu­man rights and ecol­ogy. She is a mother of four, in­clud­ing Rius who is fol­low­ing her foot­steps as spokesper­son for Save Our Schools.

None of th­ese mat­tered for the po­lice, the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion and De­tec­tion Group Re­gion 9 who took her at the air­port. She was pre­vented from mak­ing a phone call to friends or fam­ily. But Ging­ging man­aged to call her friend from the Mis­sion­ar­ies of the As­sump­tion. In the next eight hours, she was in­com­mu­ni­cado.

A dogged search by me­dia friends dis­cov­ered she was brought to Pa­ga­dian City, charged with frus­trated mur­der and ar­son, which did not bear her name. But the name on the ar­rest war­rant was a cer­tain Elsa Ren­ton aka Tina Maglaya.

In­deed, the po­lice later re­leased Valle, say­ing this was a case of “mis­taken iden­tity”.

This could have been a fa­tal mis­take, the Na­tional Union of Jour­nal­ists of the Philip­pines said in a state­ment.

“There is no lack of vic­tims of ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings and en­forced dis­ap­pear­ances to drive home this point,” they pointed out

NUJP went on to say this was “not a law­ful op­er­a­tion but a crim­i­nal ab­duc­tion of a jour­nal­ist”.

A con­ve­nient ex­cuse, the Al­ter­midya Net­work said. “Valle’s ar­rest was a clear case of ha­rass­ment. If any­thing, the ar­rest only demon­strates the ram­pant abuse of power and im­punity by state forces in Min­danao, and sends the mes­sage that they can take any­one pris­oner.”

A vi­o­la­tion of pro­ce­dure, for­mer IBP Davao Pres­i­dent Cae­sar Europa said.

“Shouldn’t the ver­i­fi­ca­tion and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion be done BE­FORE you ar­rest any­one?”

Europa re­minds po­lice of the Gen­eral Rule in Sec­tion 2 of the Bill of Rights of the Con­sti­tu­tion: “The right of the peo­ple to be se­cure in their per­sons, houses, pa­pers, and ef­fects against un­rea­son­able searches and seizures of what­ever na­ture and for any pur­pose shall be INVIOLABLE.”

For that, Ging­ging, her fam­ily and me­dia col­leagues, would not take this as a sim­ple mis­take. This is abuse of au­thor­ity that en­dan­gers lives and it is hap­pen­ing every day.

As Ging­ging said in an in­ter­view af­ter her re­lease: “Any­body can be ar­rested by al­le­ga­tions. Any­body is vul­ner­a­ble.”

We have to hold au­thor­ity ac­count­able for this.*

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