MALACAÑANG said Monday, June 10, 2019, that the Philippine National Police (PNP) should apologize to columnist Margarita Valle for arresting her in a case of mistaken identity.
"Mistaken identity daw yun, sabi (They said it's a mistaken identity," Panelo told Palace reporters in a press briefing.
"Kung (If it's a) mistaken identity, the police would owe that journalist an apology," he added.
Valle, a former columnist of Sun.Star Davao, was arrested on Sunday morning, June 9, at the Laguindingian Airport in Misamis Oriental while waiting for her flight home to Davao City.
She was released after the police learned that she only bore a "major resemblance" to the actual suspect, Elsa Renton.
Renton, reportedly hiding under the name of tina Maglaya and Fidelina Margarita Valle, is a suspected member of the communist movement who is the real subject of the arrest warrant for arson issued in 2006, and another arrest warrant for murder case and destruction to government property issued in 2011.
The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the arrest, which it described as an "abduction".
“Let us call a spade a spade. The supposed ‘arrest’ on Sunday of Davao Today columnist Fidelina Margarita Valle in Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental was not a lawful operation but a criminal abduction of a journalist,” the NUJP said in a statement.
“The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines strongly condemns Valle's abduction and the CIDG's violation of her basic rights,” it added.
Family and friends of Valle frantically searched for her Sunday. From the airport in Misamis Oriental, she was brought to Camp Abelon in Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur, about 200 kilometers away, where she underwent regular booking procedure.
“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?,” the NUJP said.
“This is the equivalent of shoot now, ask questions later...And the truth is that Ms. Valle's abduction could have had dire, even fatal, consequences. There is no lack of victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances to drive home this point,” it added.
The group demanded that the police and military personnel involved in the incident and their superiors be prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law.
The police released Valle after a witness "averred that the suspect has major resemblance but is not the actual suspect who is the subject of the warrant," PNP spokesperson Colonel Bernard Banac said in a statement.
Asked if the Palace is convinced that there is a problem in police intelligence following the incident, Panelo said: "Hindi naman dahil kamukhang kamukha daw (No, there's none. It's just that she has major resemblance to the actual suspect)." (SunStar Philippines)