Zambales prosecutor junks refiled rap vs teacher who offered bounty to kill Duterte
Ronnel Mas talks to members of media following his arrest on May 11. Photo courtesy of the National Bureau of Investigation-Dagupan office.

Zambales prosecutor junks refiled rap vs teacher who offered bounty to kill Duterte

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - February 20, 2021 - 11:36am

MANILA, Philippines — (Updated 12:22 p.m.) An inciting to sedition complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation against public school teacher Ronnel Mas, who offered a P50-million reward for President Rodrigo Duterte’s death on Twitter, was again junked — this time by a Zambales prosecutor. 

Acting Zambales provincial prosecutor Leonardo Santos said in a resolution released to the media on Saturday that the NBI, which re-filed the complaint against Mas, "failed to prove the identity of the perpetrator," as required by the Rules on Electronic Evidence. 

This, Santos said, despite the fact that the complainant had already been "appraised with the insufficiency of the NBI's complaint by the court," that junked its case last June 24, 2020. 

"Worse, the complainant not only has ignored one of the cited reasons by the court but also that of the undersigned investigating prosecutor," Santos added, referring to the NBI's failure to provide his office with a copy of Mas' alleged extrajudicial confession in an interview with a media reporter. 

The prosecutor also cited the NBI's failure to secure a cyber-warrant of arrest against Mas, failure to produce a digital forensic examination report, and its illegal arrest of Mas, as decided by the Olongapo court that first junked the complaint. 

"The Undersigned Prosecutor understands the seriousness of the remark made and the possible impact it may have created in disrupting peace and order in our country," Santos said. "However, he cannot turn a blind eye to the rules of procedure, quantum of evidence and the law." 

"For, after all the issue at hand is a balance of the bill of rights, particularly the freedom of speech, and the State's police power for common good and public order." 

NBI agents arrested Mas on a “hot pursuit” operation on May 11, 2020, over a tweet posted six days earlier that read: “I will give P50 million reward kung sino makakapatay kay Duterte.”

But Olongapo RTC Judge Richard Paradeza last June granted Mas' Motion to Quash — where the accused raised the illegality of his arrest — and ordered the dismissal of the inciting to sedition charge against the public school teacher. “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 inquest prosecutor said then.  

It further noted that "[v]erbal admissions made without the assistance of counsel are inadmissible.” 

The court also said that while the assailed content of the tweet is “despicable and provocative,” constitutional rights must still be upheld. 

'Ordinary people can push back against oppression' 

Free Legal Assistance Group's Dino De Leon, who serves as Mas' lawyer, on Friday night said the NBI in the refiling of their case was "determined to further harass Teacher Ronnel." 

But he lauded the junking of the complaint, saying in a Facebook post that "[t]he enablers of atrocities of this regime can only go so far if there are people who will fight for the rule of law." 

They illegally arrested Teacher Ronnel before, and he was jailed indefinitely. We sought his release (Read:...

Posted by Dino De Leon on Friday, February 19, 2021

"Indeed, what this decision shows is that ordinary people like Teacher Ronnel can push back and can stand up against oppression, injustice, and violations of human rights," De Leon said. 

"For so long as there are people who will stand up for what is right and just, we have hope."

— with reports from Kristine Joy Patag

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