Olongapo Court junks charges against teacher who tweeted P50M reward for Duterte killer

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An Olongapo court has dismissed the criminal case against the public high school teacher who posted on Twitter  an offer of a P50-million reward to anyone who could kill President Rodrigo Duterte, saying the National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI’s) arrest conducted was “disturbing”.

Judge Richard Paradeza of the Olongapo Regional Trial Court, in his order dated June 24, granted Ronnel Mas’ motion to quash the charge for inciting to sedition in relation to cybercrime.

Paradeza said Mas was illegally arrested, thus stripping the court of jurisdiction over him.

Mas was arrested without a warrant in Zambales and detained in Manila for a week last May.

After he was charged in court, he posted bail of P72,000 and was released.

In its order, Paradeza said it was “disturbing” that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested Mas “merely on the basis of the statements given by Julius Hallado, six days after the subject text was posted in the aforesaid Twitter account.”

“No other evidence was gathered by the NBI operatives to pinpoint ownership of the said Twitter account except the statements of Julius Hallado,” the court said.

In the Rules of Criminal Procedure, warrantless arrests are valid only when a person has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense in the presence of the arresting officer; when the officer has probable cause to believe based on his personal knowledge that the person has just committed an offense; and when the person is an escaped prisoner.

“Owing to the appreciable lapse of time between the arrest of the accused and the commission of the crime charged, it is safe to conclude that the arrest of the accused is unlawful,” the court said.

Like the court, the prosecutor who had indicted Mas also found that his arrest was invalid. The difference was the prosecutor said the illegality of the arrest was “cured” by his admission that he had posted the tweet.

The court disagreed, saying “evidence gathered as a consequence of said unlawful arrest is inadmissible in evidence.”

The court said “verbal admissions made without the assistance of counsel are inadmissible.” It also said the prosecution did not include the alleged extrajudicial admission in the case record.

Finding Mas’ tweet “despicable and provocative,” the court said its author/s “should be made liable and punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

The court also commended the NBI for its immediate investigation but said operatives “inadvertently committed some lapses along the way, detrimental to the constitutional rights of the accused.”

“However, no matter how contemptible or reprehensible the post is, the person or persons subjected to be responsible to the posting of the subject provocative text should be afforded their constitutional rights,” the court said.

For their part, ACT Teachers Representative France Castro welcomed on Thursday the dismissal order by the Regional Trial Court Branch 72 of Olongapo City of Teacher Ronnel Mas for violation of Article 142 of the RPC in relation to RA 10175 or inciting to sedition in ralation to the cybercrime law.

“We welcome the dismissal order of RTC Branch 72 of Olongapo City on the charges against Teacher Ronnel Mas. We will continue to fight the attacks on free speech and the state’s effort to censor the people. We will continue to fight the state’s attacks on the basic human rights amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Castro said.

“We thank all those who helped and expressed supportin the dismissal of his case, especially the lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group and Atty. Dino de Leon,” Castro said.

Castro said the Duterte administration has been determined to silence all those who criticize and oppose anti-people policies.

“President Rodrigo Duterte is so allergic to criticism and any form of dissent that his administration targets even social media posts by ordinary people showing their discontent on how the government is handling this pandemic,” Castro added.

“Hindi tayo papayag na magpatuloy ang pagpapatahimik at pananakot sa taumbayan sa kanilang karapatang magsalita at magprotesta,” she said.

“We will never be silenced and we willcontinue to fight for the people’s right to free speech,” Castro ended./Stacy Ang

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