A public school teacher will face inciting to sedition charges for offering a multi-million peso bounty to anyone willing to kill President Rodrigo Duterte, despite being arrested without a warrant.
Ronnel Mas, 25, was arrested earlier this week by operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Dagupan City after he offered a PHP50 million (US$993,900) reward on Twitter to anyone willing to snuff out the president. Members of the NBI captured the public school teacher without a warrant and the DOJ acknowledged that this was a wrong move.
“It is undeniable that the arrest of Ronnel Mas made by the NBI-Dagupan operatives does not fall within the ambit of warrantless arrest contemplated by the law,” Assistant State Prosecutor Jeanette Dacpano said in her inquest resolution.
However, the prosecutor said that the “defect” was “ultimately cured” when Mas admitted to members of media that he had personally posted the threats on his own Twitter account. Dacpano said this is enough reason to indict the school teacher of the said charges.
Meanwhile, DOJ Prosecutor General Benedict Malcontento, the official who approved the charges filed against the suspect, held a different view. He told Rappler in a text message that Mas’ warrantless arrest is valid, but did not explain his reasons.
“There were other factors, leave it at that…Charges of inciting to sedition [for Mas will be filed] in Zambales likely first thing next week,” he said.
Mas confessed to reporters a day after his arrest that the tweet was made in jest and he has already apologized to the president.
“I was merely matching the PHP50-million reward [Duterte] offered for a vaccine [against COVID-19],” he said. “I apologize to President Duterte for posting that tweet…we are already in a crisis and I added to the problem. With all my heart, I regret what I have done.”
Mas has been brought to Manila where he remains under the NBI’s custody, with bail set at PHP72,000 (US$1,419).
ACT Teachers Party-list Representative France Castro has demanded Mas’ release, citing the government’s hypocrisy and double standards because Duterte himself has made several public threats and shoot-to-kill orders.
“The arrest of teacher Ronnel reeks of double standard and refuses to follow due process. It is a hypocrisy of law enforcement when ordinary people are arrested, harassed and threatened for posting on social media while the President continues his tirades against his critics,” Castro said.
“On the other hand, President Duterte has been threatening to kill and even gives out shoot-to-kill orders against critics, activists and the poor which have resulted in many deaths and harassment against human rights defenders,” she added.
Shortly after Mas was arrested, Boracay police captured a construction worker for offering to double the bounty on Duterte’s head on Facebook. The suspect will also be charged with inciting to sedition.