By Jeffrey Damicog
The Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) dismissed the charges filed against a teacher who offered a P50-million reward for the killing of President Duterte.
Judge Richard Paradeza of the Olongapo City RTC, Branch 72, granted on Wednesday Ronnel Mas’s motion to quash charges against him for violating Article 142 of the Revised Penal Code in relation to Republic Act 10175, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) chairman Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno hailed the court decision.
“Ito ang sabi natin noon: Ilegal ang pag-arestong yan (This is what we said before: His arrest was illegal),” he said in his latest social media posts.
The case concerns the May 5 statement of Mas was posted on his Twitter account that read: “I will give 50 million reward kung sino makakapatay kay Duterte. #NotoABSCBNShutDown.”
On May 11, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents arrested Mas in Barangay North Poblacion, Sta. Cruz, Zambales without an arrest warrant.
In his ruling, Paradeza said, “There is no doubt that the arrest of accused Ronnel Mas on May 11, 2020, as a consequence of the post he allegedly made on May 5, 2020 is illegal.”
“No other evidence was gathered by NBI operatives to pinpoint ownership of the said Twitter account, except the statements of Julius Hallado,” the magistrate stressed.
Citing Section 5 of Rule 113 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure, the judge explained that warrantless arrests can only be made if the crime was made in the presence of an arresting officer; when the offense has recently been committed and the arresting officer has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge that the person arrested committed it; or the person arrested is an escaped prisoner.
“The arrest does not fall within the scope of valid warrantless [arrest] under Rule 113 as enumerated above,” the judge said.
The magistrate explained that “when NBI operatives arrested accused who was not committing any criminal act that time, the operatives already violated the right of the accused against illegal arrest.”
“The NBI-Dagupan operatives at the time of the arrest had no personal knowledge of the facts and circumstances that the person to be arrested has indeed committed the crime. The arresting officer has no personal knowledge as to the author of the Twitter post under the account user @RonPrince_,” he also pointed out.
Even if Mas did confess before the media that he did made the post, the judge stressed “extrajudicial confessions must conform to the constitutional requirements.”
With the decision, Diokno – whose organization represented Mas in court – urged the public to remain vigilant against human rights violations.
“Wag tayo pasisindak (Let’s not get intimidated),” he stated.
“Patuloy natin bantayan ang karapatan ng isa’t isa (Let’s continue to watch over each other’s rights),” Diokno urged.