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Duterte bounty Twitter case dismissed

By: Joanna Rose Aglibot - Philippine Daily Inquirer | June 26,2020 - 08:42 AM

OLONGAPO CITY—A regional trial court (RTC) on Wednesday dismissed the charge filed against a public school teacher who offered a P50-million reward on Twitter to anybody who could kill President Rodrigo Duterte, saying his arrest without a warrant by the National Bureau of Investigation was illegal.

In his 15-page decision, Judge Richard Paradeza of RTC Branch 72 here granted the motion filed by Ronnel Mas, 25, to quash the charge against him.

“This is an answered prayer,” Mas, a teacher at Taltal National High School in Masinloc town, Zambales province, told the Inquirer after emerging from the courtroom on Thursday. Alliance of Concerned Teachers secretary general Raymond Basilio said the ruling was a “forceful slap in the face of repressive law enforcers who try to twist the law and abuse their authority.”

NBI agents arrested Mas in his house in Sta. Cruz, Zambales province, on May 11 and charged him with inciting to sedition related to cybercrime. He was detained in Manila for a week and was released after posting a P72,000-bail.

Mas later apologized for his tweet, saying it was just a joke and “only matched” the P50-million reward put up by Mr. Duterte for anybody who could come up with a vaccine against the coronavirus.

The judge granted the motion of Mas’ lawyers who questioned the legality of his arrest. According to Paradeza, the NBI “inadvertently committed some lapses along the way [that were] detrimental to the constitutional rights of the accused.”

“It is crystal clear that when NBI operatives arrested the accused, who was not committing any criminal act that time, the operatives already violated his right against illegal arrest,” Paradeza said.

He also said the NBI failed to prove that Mas owned the Twitter account, except for the statement of one witness.

The judge said Mas’ confession, which the justice department earlier said had “untimely cured” the “defect” of his warrantless arrest, was not admissible as evidence.“Even if the confession [were] gospel truth, if it was made without the assistance of counsel, it was inadmissible in evidence regardless of the absence of coercion, or even if it had been voluntarily given,” Paradeza said.

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