Prosecutor junks refiled complaint against teacher over anti-Duterte tweet

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 20) — A prosecutor from Olongapo City, Zambales has dismissed the complaint of "inciting to sedition" refiled by the National Bureau of Investigation against public school teacher Ronnel Mas over a tweet offering a ₱50-million reward to "anyone who can kill President Rodrigo Duterte."

Acting provincial prosecutor JT Leonardo Santos dismissed the complaint early this week for "lack of probable cause." Santos, in a resolution dated Feb. 16, said that the plaintiff was not able to prove it was indeed Mas who tweeted the controversial post.

"The complainant has failed to establish the evidence on the identity of the author of the seditious post. Being so, the complainant has the burden of proof to establish that indeed the respondent is the one who actually posted the remarks inciting sedition," the Olongapo prosecutor said in his ruling, a copy of which was shared to members of the media on Saturday.

The prosecutor also noted the plaintiff's failure to submit a copy of the video containing the defendant's alleged admission of guilt to a media reporter. According to the resolution, the NBI on Dec. 1 last year vowed to present the video footage and a counter affidavit, but it was a no-show during the hearing set for Dec. 15 of the same year.

The NBI arrested Mas without a warrant in Sta. Cruz, Zambales on May 11, 2020 over the Twitter post. Mas was brought to the bureau's headquarters in Manila where he reportedly confessed to the media and apologized for his tweet. In June of the same year, an Olongapo court dismissed the first inciting to sedition charge which the NBI filed against Mas. Judge Richard Paradeza of the Olongapo City RTC Branch 72 ruled that Mas was illegally arrested, and that the teacher's supposed confession to the media did not "cure" the invalid arrest.

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The prosecutor said while he "understands the seriousness of the remark made and the possible impact it may have created in disrupting peace and order in our country ... he cannot turn a blind eye to the rules of procedure, quantum of evidence and the law."

CNN Philippines Correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report