Olongapo judge junks inciting to sedition case vs teacher over anti-Duterte tweet

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 25) — The Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) has dismissed the inciting to sedition charge against Ronnel Mas, a public school teacher who offered a ₱50-million reward to anyone who could kill President Rodrigo Duterte.

Judge Richard Paradeza of the Olongapo City RTC Branch 72 issued its 15-page order on Tuesday, granting Mas' motion to quash, pursuant to Section 3 (c) of Rule 117 of the Rules of Criminal Procedures.

The judge noted that the court had no jurisdiction over Mas, after it was proven that his arrest was illegal.

"In identifying and arresting the suspect/s, their constitutional rights should be recognized and respected," the order read.

"However, in their zealous desire to solve the case with dispatch in order not to aggravate the situation, the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) operatives inadvertently committed some lapses along the way, detrimental to the constitutional rights of the accused."

Furthermore, no other evidence was gathered to prove that Mas owned the Twitter account, except for the statements of a certain Julius Hallado, who served as the NBI's witness.

The NBI arrested Mas in Sta. Cruz, Zambales on May 11 for his Twitter post. The authorities arrested him without a warrant and detained him for a week. He was only released after posting a ₱72,000-bail.

The tweet, posted on May 5, read: "I will give a 50 million reward kung sino makakapatay kay Duterte (to whoever will kill Duterte)."

The Department of Justice in a May 13 resolution previously ruled that the warrantless arrest of Mas was invalid.

It also noted that the "defect" was "untimely cured" by his own admission to the media that he posted a bounty for Duterte's slay.

However, Paradeza ruled that an extrajudicial admission does not cure the illegality of an arrest.

ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said the acquittal of Mas was a "forceful slap in the face of repressive law enforcers who try to twist the law and abuse their authority."

"This only proves how precious it is to fight for the preservation of the enshrinement of our rights in the Constitution which the Anti-Terrorism Bill seeks to erase," Basilio said.

Warrantless arrests and detention of suspects without charge for up to 24 days are among the controversial provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Bill.

Duterte has until July 9 to act on the controversial measure before it lapses into law.

CNN Philippines' Eimor Santos and Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.