New sedition rap vs. teacher junked for lack of cause

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

In a resolution dated February 16, acting Zambales provincial prosecutor Leonardo Santos “dismissed for lack of probable cause” the inciting-to-sedition charge the NBI re-filed against Ronnel Mas due to the bureau’s failure to present additional evidence that he tweeted the controversial post.

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, according to the resolution.

The dismissal comes eight months since an Olongapo court threw out the inciting to sedition charge against Mas on the ground 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 Duterte.

The public-school teacher, then 25 years old, was brought to the NBI headquarters in Manila where he confessed to the media and apologized for his tweet.

But Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 72 Judge Richard Paradeza noted the arrest was illegal, as it was made six days after the tweet was posted and NBI operatives had no personal knowledge of Mas committing the alleged crime.

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.

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

In an attempt to remedy the gaps in their evidence, the NBI secured an affidavit of an ABS-CBN News cameraman who recorded Mas’ interview, but the NBI failed to submit a copy of the video recording.

The NBI had promised during a December 1, 2020 hearing to submit a reply-affidavit and the video copy in the next hearing, but it failed to appear during the December 15, 2020 proceedings.

The NBI also submitted the Facebook post of a government prosecutor where the supposed comment identifying Mas as the owner of the Twitter account was made.

“The resolution must stand that the complainant failed to prove the identity of the perpetrator,” Santos said in his resolution, stressing that the authentication requirement under the Rules on Electronic Evidence was not met.

The rules apply in cybercrime cases where the evidence is mostly found online.

“Attached print-out of Facebook post was not authenticated and verified. Without compliance to this Rule, anyone can easily create a bogus account to implicate a person,” he said.

“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 as by tracing the IP address,” he added.

Topics: National Bureau of Investigation , Rodrigo Duterte , Leonardo Santos
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