Warrantless arrest of teacher over tweet threatening Duterte ‘defective’ — DOJ says

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) has ruled on Friday that the warrantless arrest of a teacher over a tweet offering a reward for President Rodrigo Duterte’s death was with “defect” but was “cured” by his admission to media of having posted the “provocative text.”

“It is undeniable that the arrest of Ronnel Mas made by the NBI-Dagupan operatives does not fall within the ambit of warrantless arrest contemplated by the law,” Assistant State Prosecutor Jeanette Dacpano said in her inquest resolution.

Mas was arrested without a warrant in Zambales and brought to Manila for inquest over a tweet in which he offered a supposed P50-million reward to anyone who could kill Duterte.

He was in the custody of the NBI pending bail.

The DOJ is recommending bail of P72,000 for the provisional liberty of Mass who will be charged in court over a tweet offering P50 million for Duterte’s head.

The prosecutor said the “defect” of the warrantless arrest was “ultimately cured” when the teacher extrajudicially admitted to the media that “he indeed personally posted the provocative text in his own Twitter account.”

The prosecutor said there is probable cause to indict Mas for inciting to sedition in relation to cybercrime.

The case will be filed before a Zambales court next week, according to Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento.

Mas’ lawyer and ACT Teachers Party-list Representative France Castro are at the NBI “filing for the release of the accused.” ACT said the NBI custodian “refuses to release Mas in the absence of DOJ or court order.”

In a handwritten letter to the NBI, the Free Legal Assistance Group’s Dino De Leon, Mas’ lawyer, said the prosecutor found that the warrantless arrest was invalid.

“As such, unless the NBI has any other valid court order to continue with the detention of Mr. Mas, we submit that the NBI’s continued deprivation of his liberty has no valid legal and factual basis,” De Leon said.

In a seven-page resolution, Dacpano pointed out that Mas posted the tweet on May 5. He was arrested six days later, on May 11.

“Inciting to sedition is not a continuous crime for which the offender may be arrested without a warrant duly issued by the proper authority,” the prosecutor said.

She added that the arresting officer, at the time of the arrest, “had no personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has indeed committed the time.”

“Being a cybercrime, the arresting officer must have conclusive evidence that the person who wrote the text in the Twitter account… is indeed Ronnel Mas and not someone impersonating him,” she wrote.

Arrests can only be made with a court-issued warrant except in the following instances: when a person is caught in the act of committing a crime, when the arresting officer has probable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has just committed the crime, and when a prisoner has escaped.

But the “defect” was “cured” by Mas’ own admission to the media that he posted the tweet, the prosecutor said. It was also in this “interview” that Mas apologized to the President.

Dacpano said the tweet “I will give 50 million reward kung sino makakapatay kay Duterte #NotoABSCBNShutDown” “clearly suggests violent means to topple the Duterte administration.”

The Twitter account has since been deactivated.

She said that Mas was “rousing commotion or disturbance in the state” by “inviting others to act accordingly with the intended outcome of the president’s assassination in exchange for P50,000,000.00.”

On the charge of violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials, the prosecutor said she will defer to the Civil Service Commission./Stacy Ang

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