‘Form of harassment’: NBI’s refiling of complaints vs teacher over ‘kill Duterte’ tweet questioned

June 30, 2021 - 11:29 AM
Ronnel Mas
Ronnel Mas talks to members of media following his arrest on May 11, 2020. (Photo from National Bureau of Investigation-Dagupan office)

Speculations were raised as to why the National Bureau of Investigation needed to file complaints against teacher Ronnel Mas three times over a tweet against President Rodrigo Duterte.

The bureau lost its case against the public school teacher after Zambales Acting Provincial Prosecutor JT Leonardo Santos junked the re-filed complaint due to its failure “to prove the identity of the perpetrator” of the tweet in question.

Mas was arrested without a warrant on May 2020 over a tweet offering a P50-million reward to have the chief executive be killed.

“I will give P50 Million reward kung sino makakapatay kay Duterte,” the post read.

He was arrested on a “hot pursuit” operation and subjected to  inquest for complaints of Inciting to Sedition in relation to the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Last year, a video of an arrested Mas was posted by The Philippine STAR where he tearfully said that one should “think carefully” before posting on the internet, “especially if you have dreams in life.”

A month after the arrest, Olongapo Judge Richard Paradeza dismissed the inciting to sedition charge against the teacher and said that the latter was illegally arrested.

Last February, Santos junked the re-filed complaint of the NBI and said that it failed to prove Mas was the one behind the tweet in question.

The NBI submitted additional evidence to prove its case in the form of a CD (compact disk) containing the teacher’s confession and an affidavit of broadcaster Ronald Allan Sison, who said he conducted Mas’ interview.

Santos said that the CD’s contents were not authenticated.

The prosecution on June upheld its findings in February and once again junked the bureau’s complaint.

“This Office is not a rubberstamp where it is ministerial duty to file cases in court, especially where an agency of the government is the complainant,” Santos said.

Lawyer Dino De Leon, Mas’ legal counsel, said that the NBI should stop harassing his client and move on.

Some Filipinos who learned of the incident similarly accused the bureau following the complaint refilings.

“It’s a form of harassment para hindi tularan, a chilling effect. Tignan niyo kung ano’ng s*it ang pagdadaanan niyo kapag gumawa kayo ng ganito,” a Reddit user commented in response to the news.

“I don’t think they care about winning the case. Maybe they’re just going to wear him down psychologically, and also to serve as an example for everyone else,” another online user speculated in response to NBI’s initiative.

“The NBI knows they’re not going to win the case but that’s not the objective. It’s to make an example of how much pain they can inflict through their ‘creative’ definitions of the law. That has been achieved,” a different user likewise claimed.

“NBI is hammering this guy too much. How credible is the threat that this guy could inflict on Duterte for them to file a case thrice? I find it unusual,” wrote another commenter.

Warrantless arrests and detention of suspects without charge for up to 24 days are among the controversial provisions of the Anti-Terror Law, which was just a bill at the time of Mas’ arrest.

A 2020 commentary from fact-checking organization VERA Files noted that his arrest was a “preview of the horror” that Filipinos would go through should the bill become a law.

The measure, certified urgent by Duterte, was signed into law in July last year.

Since February, the Supreme Court has been conducting oral arguments on the 37 consolidated petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.