Feb 20, 2021 @ 9:59

NBI got receipts? Fiscal says ‘kill Duterte’ threat not proven to come from teacher

Social media warriors on the hunt for the latest person to cancel should learn this lesson from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI): “Receipts” of posts are not enough to get them in trouble with the law, if there is no proof that the account is not bogus.

The NBI should have proven that the Twitter account that offered a reward for the killing of President Rodrigo Duterte really belonged to teacher Ronnel Mas, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Zambales said as it dismissed the second criminal complaint filed against the latter.

The unverified tweet dated May 5 read: “I will give a 50 million reward kung sino makakapatay kay Duterte.”

The NBI already lost an earlier case for inciting to sedition against Mas, when the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) on June 23 ruled his warrantless arrest to be illegal and found his extrajudicial confession to the media to be inadmissible.

Acting Provincial Prosecutor JT Leonardo Santos said the NBI should have learned its lesson from the June court order and provided evidence to strengthen its new complaint for inciting to sedition in relation to cybercrime.

“The tragedy in this so-called cybercrime is the proper identification of the perpetrator,” read the resolution signed by Santos.

“Anyone can easily create a bogus account to implicate a person. 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 by tracing the IP address,” it added.

The resolution noted that the NBI failed to follow the proper procedures prescribed by the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 and did not bother to authenticate the iPhone presented as evidence.

“Nothing under this law has been complied with in the investigation and gathering of data to identify the perpetrator and effectively prosecute the same,” it added.

NBI agents arrested Mas in May 2020 without a warrant, after supposedly tracking him down. They interrogated him without a lawyer being present and then presented him to the media in Manila.

The first complaint reached the court because the prosecution previously believed that the extrajudicial confession cured the defect of the warrantless arrest.

This time, the prosecution was now stricter in entertaining the NBI’s complaints against perceived critics of the Duterte administration.

“For, after all, the issue at hand is a balance of the Bill of Rights, particularly the freedom of speech, and the State’s police power for common good and public order,” read the resolution.

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