Case junked anew vs teacher who ‘offered’ P50-M ‘to anyone who can kill Duterte’

Published June 29, 2021, 1:22 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog

Teacher Ronnel Mas

The Zambales Provincial Prosecutor’s Office (PPO) has upheld its ruling that dismissed the inciting to sedition complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against teacher Ronnel A. Mas who reportedly offered in his social media post a P50 million reward to anyone who can kill President Duterte.

“Indeed, such seditious remarks must not go unpunished. The NBI must be commended in its efforts to contribute in the peace and stability of our country. However, the rules on evidence in establishing probable cause must be upheld.,” stated the June 22 resolution of Zambales Acting Provincial Prosecutor Leonardo C. Santos.

But Santos’ resolution stated that “the complainant is not without a recourse, as it can simply re-file this case with the sufficient documents and evidence to establish probable cause.”

Upheld by the Zambales PPO was its Feb. 16, 2021 resolution that dismissed the NBI’s complaint against Mas.

The case involved the May 5, 2020 Twitter post allegedly made by Mas using the name @RonPrince_ which stated: “I will give 50 million reward kung sino makakapatay kay Duterte (to whoever will kill Duterte). #NotoABSCBNShutDown.”

The NBI arrested Mas on May 11, 2020 in Barangay North Poblacion in Sta. Cruz, Zambales and presented him for inquest before the PPO for inciting to sedition under Article 142 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) in relation to Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 and RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

On June 24, 2020, the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 72 granted Mas’ motion to dismiss the case.

In its June 22 resolution, Santos pointed out the complainant “failed the quantum of evidence required in a preliminary investigation, i.e. probable cause.”

Santos said the NBI presented “the affidavits of common friends who know if the respondent is the one using such account” as well as “open sources” publicly posted in various social media platforms which identified Mas as the person who posted the Tweet.

“It is common knowledge that digital evidence may even be altered and edited. Hence, the complainant must submit the same and authenticate, validate and confirm that it is copied from the original source and has not been altered, edited and tampered,” he pointed out.

Santos said the NBI, realizing this, introduced new evidence in its motion for reconsideration which is a video that showed Mas admitting that he made the social media post.

However, Santos said, the NBI only presented an affidavit that a certain Ronald Allan Sison who conducted the interview of Mas but has “not authenticated the contents of the CD nor any person who downloaded and copied the same on the CD has executed to affirm its source, genuineness and authenticity.”

“Be that as it may, the introduction of new evidence during a motion for reconsideration is not proper,” added the prosecutor who cited a ruling made by the Supreme Court (SC) about the submissions of such evidence.

Also, Santos pointed out that the arrest of the teacher was not in accordance with Revised Rules of Court on warrantless arrest since at the time of the arrest “the respondent is not committing nor has just committed a crime.”