Ombudsman junks raps vs cops, soldiers for Davao journo's 'mistaken identity' arrest

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 28 2020 03:52 PM

The Office of the Ombudsman has junked complaints filed by a Davao-based journalist against several police and military officers who illegally arrested her last year over mistaken identity. File

MANILA — The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed criminal and administrative charges that Davao-based journalist Fidelina Margarita Valle filed against soldiers and police officers, including former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Oscar Albayalde, over her alleged illegal arrest last year. 

Valle was arrested on the morning of June 9, 2019 at the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental and was brought to Camp Abelon in Pagadian City, Zamboanga Del Sur, where she was held until 11:00 p.m. of the same day.

Valle, at the time 61, said the policemen and soldiers who took custody of her violated Republic Act No. 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act and Republic Act No. 7438 or An Act Defining Certain Rights of Person Arrested, Detained, or Under Custodial Investigation.

Valle filed the complaints against the police and military officers so that they would be indicted by the Ombudsman for kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

She had insisted that the police and military officers and their principals should be prosecuted for her ordeal, which started at the airport when the arresting officers refused to believe her even if she had presented her senior citizen identification card and her Sunstar Davao badge.

She also recounted that she was ushered to an unmarked vehicle, her two mobile phones were confiscated and her fingerprints and mugshots taken with the name "Elsa Renton."

The Ombudsman resolution, however, noted that former PNP Spokesperson Col. Bernard Banac had admitted that the arrest was a case of "mistaken identity" as the officers thought Valle was "high-value target" Elsa Renton who went by the alias "Fidelina Margarita Valle y Avellanosa."

Even if the Ombudsman acknowledged lapses on the part of the arresting team, the resolution stressed that proper procedures were observed.

"While there may be lapses in the operations, the arrest was legal at that time since the arresting officers were under the impression that Elsa Renton and complainant are one and the same person," the Ombudsman said.

The Ombudsman said that it was established that the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 9 officers effected the arrest but it was not enough to indict them as there was no evidence that they employed violence, unnecessary force, coercion, intimidation, or threat of bodily harm against Valle.

"It is recognized that complainant experienced anxiety, fear, and inconvenience from the mistaken identity arrest. It is reiterated that the actions of the arresting officers during the implementation of the warrants were clothed with authority," the Office of the Ombudsman said.

The police and military officers were likewise cleared of serious administrative charges of grave misconduct, grave abuse of authority and conduct unbecoming of a public official.

The resolution was approved by Overall Deputy Ombudsman and Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval on September 7, 2020.

Aside from Albayalde and Banac, the other respondents who were cleared by the Ombudsman were: Brig. Gen. Jacinto Bareng and Lt. Cols. Marlowe Patria Pa of the Philippine Army and police officials Cols. Tom Tuzon, Redentor Retusto, John Guyguyon, Michael Pareha and Raniel Valones; Lt. Cols. Modhin Pantaran and Mardito Anguluan; Capts. Moh Madzdie-Aziz Mukaram and Rorye Tabuclin; Maj. Alfredo Lim; Sr. Master Sgt. Cristina Langit; Patrolman Victor John Canoy; Master Sgt. Ricky Felipe; and several John and Jane Does.

But police officers Mukaram and Tuzon will be held liable for simple neglect of duty which has a penalty of suspension of one to six months. 

"Mukaram and Tuzon should have exercised due diligence in verifying the information provided to them," the Ombudsman said.

The Ombusdman noted in the resolution that in the event that they are no longer in service, the penalty shall be converted into a fine equivalent to their salary for three months.