Arrest of public school teacher over online threat vs Duterte sparks questions on ‘selective justice’ anew

May 12, 2020 - 8:22 PM
Arrested man
In this photo, a man is handcuffed for arrest. (Flickr/BMN Network)

public school teacher was arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday over his online post where he offered a hefty P50 million reward to those who can kill the president.

The accused, identified as Ronnel Mas, a teacher of Taltal National High School, shared the supposed threat against President Rodrigo Duterte on Twitter. 

The tweet under his now-deleted account states: “I will give ₱50 Million reward kung sino makakapatay kay Duterte (to anyone who can kill Duterte).” 

‘Reverse psychology’

On Monday, Ronald Allan Sison, reportedly an NBI agent who was present during the arrest of Mas, posted a video and photos on his Facebook account detailing how local authorities apprehended Mas at Barangay Poblacion North in Sta. Cruz, Zambales 

In the video, Mas, who appeared to be in the vehicle with his parents and local authorities, was shown in tears as he apologized to Duterte for his tweet.  

He said that his intention was only to “seek attention” and was not expecting to be arrested for it. 

Sison claimed in the same Facebook post that they applied “reverse psychology” to the suspect to make him confess. 

He said that among the arresting local officers were NBI Pangasinan chief Rizaldy Jaymalin, Special Investigator Paulo Calip, Special Investigator Mark Caseres and lawyer Fabienne Matib who tracked Mas down.

NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin later confirmed the arrest to reporters on Tuesday. 

Authorities added that Mas committed inciting to sedition charges in relation to the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 and violated provisions of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials. 

Despite the apology, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that Mas will still face criminal responsibility.  

“Apology is not one of the grounds for extinguishing criminal liability. I cannot feloniously injure another and get away with it by merely saying ‘sorry’,” Guevarra said in a statement. 

Malacañang, meanwhile, distanced itself and said that it is up to law enforcement agencies to handle the case.  

“Well, iyan po ay nasa kamay na ng ating law enforcement agencies. Hayaan po natin na gawin nila ang trabaho nila,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a televised press briefing on May 12.  

Selective justice?  

While some Filipinos praised the arrest, others argued that the NBI officials should have known that public school teachers could not afford such amount of money.  

A public school teacher’s starting pay is at P19,077, according to a report from Business Mirror.

Surely, the NBI knows that this man would not post this online if true,” one Twitter user said 

Film critic Phil Dy also mimicked Mas’s tweet in jest and replaced slammed the administration.  

“I’m offering 50 million pesos to anyone who can convince me that this government isn’t garbage,” Dy said.  

The 25-year-old teacher earlier said that the P50 million bounty he mentioned was based on Duterte’s reward which the president offered to Filipinos who will invent the vaccine for the virus which causes COVID-19.  

Other Filipinos questioned why Duterte’s supporters have not received the same punishment over malicious posts and death threats against Vice President Leni Robredo, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, and other opposition officials who are critical of the Duterte administration 

Some Twitter users even shared screenshots of these supposed social media threats on the micro-blogging platform.  

Another Twitter user also questioned why Duterte isn’t called out whenever he issues threat to kill violators or alleged drug addicts.

“Pero si Duterte nagsasabi na patayin ang mga tao LIVE NATIONWIDE wala lang??” he asked. 

Activist Jon Callueng, meanwhile, noted the irregularity of Mas’ arrest, citing he was interrogated and “tricked” to a confession.  

“One does not need that in-depth legal knowledge to notice the irregularities in arrests and detentions happening recently. Human Rights situation worsening every day,” he said 

Mas’s father later issued a public apology on behalf of his son via a video clip also shared by some news outlets.  

“Parang awa niyo na po, kung anumang nagawa ng anak ko, patawarin niyo na po,” the father said in his recorded apology.