MANILA, Philippines — The Olongapo City regional trial court yesterday dismissed the inciting to sedition case filed against teacher Ronnel Mas, who allegedly offered through his social media post a P50-million reward to anyone who would kill President Duterte.
In a 15-page order, Olongapo City RTC Branch 72 Judge Richard Paradeza dismissed the charges filed against 25-year-old Mas for violation of Article 142 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) or inciting to sedition in relation to Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2020.
Paradeza granted the motion to quash filed by Mas, who cited three grounds: the court has no jurisdiction over him because the arrest conducted was unlawful; the facts charged do not constitute an offense; and the court hearing the case is deemed ousted of jurisdiction because of the serious violation of Mas’ constitutional rights.
“Considering that accused Mas had timely raised objection to the legality of his arrest before arraignment, and with the findings of this court that accused Mas was indeed unlawfully arrested, this court failed to acquire jurisdiction over his person,” Paradeza said.
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents arrested Mas without a warrant in Sta. Cruz, Zambales and detained him for eight days at the NBI main office in Manila last May 11.
The case filed against Mas stemmed from his message in the Twitter account @RonPrince last May 5 wherein he allegedly posted, “I will give 50 million reward kung sino makakapatay kay Duterte. #NotoABSCBNShutDown.”
Agents of the NBI Dagupan City office were able to track the suspect’s location and arrested him in Zambales.
Paradeza said he found the tweet “despicable and provocative” because it tends to undermine the lawful authorities and disturb the peace and order of the community, with the President as the target of the post.
He also lauded the NBI for immediately investigating the matter, thus preventing the further circulation of the provocative post in social media.
However, while those behind the post should be made liable and face the fullest extent of the law, Paradeza said no matter how contemptible or reprehensible the post is, the transgressors still have their constitutional rights.
“However, in their zealous desire to solve the case with dispatch in order not to aggravate the situation, the NBI operatives inadvertently committed some lapses along the way, detrimental to the constitutional rights of the accused. As there is apparent deprivation of the constitutional rights of the accused Mas in this case, particularly the legality of his arrest, the court did not acquire jurisdiction over his person,” the judge said.
“A court does not acquire jurisdiction over the person of one who is illegally arrested and who questions his/her unlawful arrest before arraignment,” he added.
Paradeza also took note that the operatives, at the time of the arrest, had no personal knowledge of the facts and circumstances that the person to be arrested had indeed committed the crime; nor did they have personal knowledge as to the author of the Twitter account @RonPrince.
He said it was disturbing that the NBI arrested Mas solely based on statements given by one Julius Hallado, a public teacher who reportedly disclosed the identity of Mas behind the handle @RonPrince. Bebot Sison Jr.
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