The school teacher in Zambales who last year offered a PHP50-reward to anyone who could kill President Duterte is now off the hook after the provincial prosecutor junked the second complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for inciting to sedition.
Zambales provincial prosecutor Leonardo Santos said in a resolution released to media that the NBI, which re-filed the complaint against Ronald Mas, “failed to prove the identity of the perpetrator,” as required by the Rules on Electronic Evidence.
This was the second inciting-to-sedition complaint filed against Mas, who obviously don’t have the means to raise the PHP50-million bounty and made the offer on Twitter as a prank.
Santos said the NBI had already been “appraised with the insufficiency of its complaint by the court,” that junked its case on June 24, 2020 but the NBI re-filed the complaint anyway.
“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 extra-judicial 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 PHP50 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 “verbal admissions made without the assistance of counsel are inadmissible.”
All this means is that the case against Mas, ludicrous as it may seem, was dropped only for legal technicalities.
The court also said that while the assailed content of the tweet is “despicable and provocative,” constitutional rights must still be upheld.
Free Legal Assistance Group’s Dino De Leon, who serves as Mas’ lawyer, 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.”