/ 21 February 2021

A ZAMBALES prosecutor junked a new complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation against a teacher who allegedly tweeted raising a P50-million reward for the life of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Acting provincial prosecutor JT Leonardo Santos dismissed the complaint against Ronnel Mas last February 16 after the NBI failed to submit the required proof for the alleged crime.

The complaint was for inciting sedition related to cybercrime.

“The prosecutor understands the seriousness of the remark made and the possible impact it may have created in disrupting peace and order in our country. However, he cannot turn a blind eye to the rules of procedure, quantum of evidence and the law,” Santos said in the resolution released on Saturday.

According to the resolution, the NBI also failed to provide a recording of Mas’ supposed confession to the media and did not comply with rules on electronic evidence in investigating and gathering data.

The dismissal came eight months since an Olongapo court threw out the inciting to sedition charge against Mas, that he was illegally arrested and that his subsequent media confession did not cure the invalidity of his arrest.

NBI operatives arrested Mas without a warrant in Zambales on May 11 last year after a co-teacher identified him as the owner of the Twitter account which posted the now deleted tweet offering a reward to anyone who could kill President Duterte.

In the first complaint, a state prosecutor with the Department of Justice charged Mas, giving weight to the extrajudicial confession, and even saying it cured the warrantless arrest.

But an Olongapo court dropped the charges against Mas in June 2020, ruling that the warrantless arrest was illegal and that the teacher’s extrajudicial confession to the media was inadmissible.

For the refiled complaint, Santos said he had to be strict in following the parameters of probable cause.

Santos argued that knowing the court decision in June, the NBI should have fortified up its complaint with proof, including forensic examination of electronics, to prove that Mas was indeed behind the tweet.

“Instead, they relied on the statement given by his co-teacher Julius Hallado, who the court said was ‘not certain,’ based on his affidavit, if Mas owned the account,” Santos said.

The judge also pointed out the NBI did not submit the affidavit of the person who interviewed Mas nor video clips of his interview.

“Anyone can easily create a bogus account to implicate a person. It is material that there is proof that indeed the source of that electronic evidence is from a computer within the control of the respondent, such by tracing the IP address,” Santos said.