DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 September) – Two police officials who are among those facing charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for the June 9 arrest and detention of Davao Today columnist Fidelina Margarita “Gingging” Avellanosa-Valle have asked the Office of the Ombudsman for a 30-day extension, from September 12 to October 12, to file their counter-affidavits.
PCol Tom Tuzon, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Regional Field Unit based in Zambaonga City and PCapt. Mohammad Madzdie Aziz K. Mukaram from the same office, filed a motion for extension on September 10.
Tuzon and Mukaram along with other officials from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Army are facing charges before the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices (MOLEO).
Under OMP-P-C-19-0099, they are charged with arbitrary detention, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, and violation of the anti-torture act of 2009 while under OMB-P-A-19-0127, they are charged for conduct unbecoming of a public official; grave abuse of authority and grave misconduct.
The 61-year old development worker, freelance writer and Davao Today columnist, was arrested at the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental at around 10 a.m. on June 9, a Sunday, as she was waiting for her late breakfast of brewed coffee and tuna sandwich at the Dunkin’ Donuts store.
Valle was flying back to Davao City that evening but instead of breakfast, she was served warrants of arrest by six to nine men in civilian clothes who did not allow her to read the warrants. She insisted on making a phone call and was able to inform Sister Mila Gimeno of the Missionaries of the Assumption in Davao City, that she was being arrested by the CIDG.
Valle was held incommunicado for at least eight hours as she was transported from the Laguindingan airport to a police station, apparently also in Laguindingan, then to the police in Iligan City and from there to Pagadian City, some 200 kilometers from the airport. Valle had left Pagadian at dawn for Laguindingan Airport to await her 7:30 p.m. flight back to Davao City on June 9 but instead of returning home, she was brought back to Pagadian.
Citing a report from CIDG 9, Col. Bernard Banac, spokesperson of the Philippine National Police (PNP), on June 9 said Valle was arrested on the basis of a 2011 warrant of arrest allegedly for “multiple murder with quadruple frustrated murder and damage to government property” issued in Calamba, Misamis Occidental “with no bail recommended” and a September 2006 WOA for alleged arson, with bail recommended at 24,000 pesos.
The report named the suspect as “Elsa [email protected] Tina Maglaya / Fidelina Margarita Valle y Avellanosa.”
Valle was released that same evening on the basis of mistaken identity.
“Upon arrival of the witness who physically identified the subject, witness further averred that the suspect has major resemblance but is not the actual suspect who is the subject of the warrant,” Banac said.
“Very grave and complex”
In the two-page joint Motion for Extension, Tuzon and Mukaram said they received a copy of the Ombudsman’s order with Valle’s complaint-affidavit on September 2, 2019, diredcting them to file their counter-affidavit within 10 days or until Spetember 12.
“In all honesty, we cannot comply in such a short period of time although we really want to,” they said, adding the charges against them are “very grave and complex.”
“We are humble enough to admit that we cannot prepare our Counter-Affidavit ourselves. We need the services of a counsel who will defend us in these cases considering that the complainant is being handled by the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL). As such, we need time to look for a competent and experienced counsel whom we can trust for our defense,” Tuzon and Mukaram said.
Aside from these reasons, the two said they “also need time to prepare the necessary documentary and testimonial evidence for our Counter-Affidavit.”
“These evidences are documents and sworn statements of witnesses,” they said.
The two added that even as it is “not yet final,” they are thinking of hiring the services of a law firm “and we are just looking for a feasible schedule to travel to Luzon to personally discuss its fees for it to handle these cases.”
“It must be noted that we are detailed here in Mindanao. We therefore plead for an extension of thirty days from September 12, 2019 or up to October 12, 2019 to file our counter-affidavit,” Tuzon and Mukaram said.
Tuzon on June 10 issued a public apology addressed to Valle for the “wrongful arrest,” and offered his “sincerest apologies for the negative experience that you had with our CIDG personnel from Pagadian City at Laguindingan Airport.”
“Due to uncertainties and less than 100% assurance of your identity from our informant, we have brought you to the CIDG office, Pagadian City, that caused you unnecessary anxiety. We do realize that we should have heeded your call regarding your identity from the start and have released you at the airport,” Tuzon said.
He said the information came from a reliable source from their military counterparts but as investigators, “we should have conducted validation prior to the arrest.”
“As of this writing, we are investigating the recent police operation at Laguindingan Airport to identify lapses in our police operational procedures and in our personnel who were involved in the operation. Any misconduct related to your arrest will be dealt with accordingly,” Tuzon said.
Valle rejected the apology and vowed to file charges against the arresting team and those who ordered her arrest.
“Definitely not. Because the ordeal that I went through cannot just be, you know, it just cannot be forgotten with an apology,” she told ANC’s Headstart on June 14.
“Ganon lang ba yun? (Just like that?). You went through so much,” she said. “It’s not physical harm but mentally and psychologically (it) really felt like torture,” she explained. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)