Ronnel Mas’ case: A preview of the possible horror of Anti-Terrorism law

The case of public school teacher Ronnel Mas should give us a preview of the horror that we would have to go through if and when the Anti-Terrorism bill, which is awaiting the signature of President Duterte, becomes a law.

The anguish that Mas suffered since he was arrested without a warrant last May 11 for his tweet that the National Bureau of Investigation considered “seditious” is immeasurable that you would not wish on your worst enemy.

Thankfully, Olongapo RTC Judge Richard Paradeza saw the illegality of the arrest and dismissed the inciting to sedition charge against Mas.

Assistant State Prosecutor Jeanette Dacpano argued that the arrest “does not fall within the ambit of warrantless arrest contemplated by the law.”

“Inciting to sedition is not a continuous crime for which the offender may be arrested without a warrant duly issued by the proper authority,” he said.

Mas’ offense was a tweet he posted on May 5 saying, “I will give P50 million reward kung sino makakapatay kay Duterte.”

Paradeza found it “disturbing” that NBI agents accosted Mas based merely on a statement on the ownership of the twitter account that was given six days after the arrest.

“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,” he said.

The court also stressed that under the Rules of Criminal Procedure, a warrantless arrest is valid if the offense had just been committed and there is probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts that the person to be arrested committed it.

The court also said that a confession is not valid and admissible as evidence when it is obtained in violation of rights of persons under custodial investigation. This includes having an “independent and competent counsel… during investigation.”

Following the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine all other supporting proofs that the NBI presented including Mas’ admission about posting the tweet cannot be admitted.

Paradeza said the tweet is “despicable and provocative,” constitutional rights must still be upheld. “No matter how contemptible or reprehensible the post is, the person or persons suspected to be responsible to the posting of the subject provocative text should be afforded their constitutional rights,” the judge further said.

Given the mindset of law enforcement agencies, imagine how it would be if the Anti-Terrorism bill becomes a law. One can be arrested without warrant and detained for 14 days, and possibly another 10 days while they are investigating if you fall under their category of “terrorist.”

The views in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.