An Olongapo court has dismissed the criminal case against the public high school teacher who had tweeted an offer of a P50-million reward to anyone who could kill President Rodrigo Duterte.
In an order dated June 24, Judge Richard Paradeza of the Olongapo Regional Trial Court granted Ronnel Mas' motion to quash the charge for inciting to sedition in relation to cybercrime.
The judge said Mas was illegally arrested, thus stripping the court of jurisdiction over him.
Mas was arrested without a warrant in Zambales and detained in Manila for a week last May.
After he was charged in court, he posted bail of P72,000 and was released.
In its order, the court said it was "disturbing" that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested Mas "merely on the basis of the statements given by Julius Hallado, six days after the subject text was posted in the aforesaid Twitter account."
"No other evidence was gathered by the NBI operatives to pinpoint ownership of the said Twitter account except the statements of Julius Hallado," the court said.
In the Rules of Criminal Procedure, warrantless arrests are valid only when a person has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense in the presence of the arresting officer; when the officer has probable cause to believe based on his personal knowledge that the person has just committed an offense; and when the person is an escaped prisoner.
"Owing to the appreciable lapse of time between the arrest of the accused and the commission of the crime charged, it is safe to conclude that the arrest of the accused is unlawful," the court said.
Like the court, the prosecutor who had indicted Mas also found that his arrest was invalid. The difference was the prosecutor said the illegality of the arrest was "cured" by his admission that he had posted the tweet.
The court disagreed, saying "evidence gathered as a consequence of said unlawful arrest is inadmissible in evidence."
The court said "verbal admissions made without the assistance of counsel are inadmissible." It also said the prosecution did not include the alleged extrajudicial admission in the case record.
Finding Mas' tweet "despicable and provocative," the court said its author/s "should be made liable and punished to the fullest extent of the law."
The court also commended the NBI for its immediate investigation but said operatives "inadvertently committed some lapses along the way, detrimental to the constitutional rights of the accused."
"However, no matter how contemptible or reprehensible the post is, the person or persons subjected to be responsible to the posting of the subject provocative text should be afforded their constitutional rights," the court said. — RSJ, GMA News