MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Monday, June 10, said the mistaken arrest of Davao City-based columnist Margarita Valle puts into question the manner and guidelines of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in serving warrants.
In a statement, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia reminded the PNP to carry out arrests "with utmost diligence" as slightest mistakes impact the rights of people.
"When fundamental rights are at stake, only the highest standards must be observed for the consequences could be irreversible," she said.
"Considering the current climate of impunity and growing reports of harassment and red-tagging, cases of mistaken identity raise doubts and fears," De Guia added.
Valle, a 61-year-old columnist of Davao Today, was mistakenly arrested by cops and soldiers at the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental on Sunday, June 9, over charges of "multiple murder with quadruple frustrated murder," destruction of government property, and arson.
But a witness reportedly told the PNP also on Sunday that Valle only has a "major resemblance" to the actual suspect. She was eventually released.
PNP chief General Oscar Albayalde downplayed the mistaken arrest, adding that "it happens, but very rarely."
The columnist's son Rius Valle, however, said the arrest was a botched enforced disappearance for which they would hold the PNP's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in the Zamboanga Peninsula accountable.
He also said that they lost any form of communication with his mother after she was arrested.
The CHR reminded the PNP to consult the 1987 Constitution on standards and the rights of arrested individuals. (READ: If you're arrested or detained, know these rights)
"The Constitution clearly outlines the standards on how [an arrest] should be carried out, which law enforcement authorities must always abide [by] in the exercise of their duty," De Guia said. "In particular, the right to call or have access to a lawyer is guaranteed in the bill of rights." – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.