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Arrest of teacher over online post, an overkill, shows selective law enforcement

ACT Press Release
May 13, 2020

QUEZON CITY - The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines denounced the arrest of public school teacher Ronnel Mas due to an allegedly seditious social media post against the President, which the group argued did not merit such harsh measures from the NBI owing to the clear improbability of the alleged threat in the assailed post. In the now deleted tweet, Mas offered a P50 million bounty for anyone who will kill President Duterte.

"Teachers' dire economic state is no secret to the people, especially to the government. 25-year old Teacher Ronnel obviously does not have P50 million to pay as bounty hence his post clearly does not pose any serious threat to the President. Why then did the NBI spend valuable time and resources to apprehend this teacher?" raised ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio.

Mas is a Social Studies teacher in Taltal National High School, Zambales and was awarded 3rd place as 2019 Outstanding Secondary Teacher in the province.

ACT noted Mas to be the 3rd teacher who was arrested during the quarantine period for airing out their disappointments and frustrations over the government's faulty response to the COVID-19 crisis.

More baffling for the teachers' federation is the prevalence of even more violent and disturbing posts and pronouncements by Duterte supporters and even government officials against critics of the administration which had not been met with the same aggressive response from law enforcers. The group cited the President's various official media pressers where he called on authorities to commit murder and rape, among others, against critics, oppositions, and anyone else deemed as enemies of the administration. This is later echoed by online trolls as well as by officials like DFA Secretary Teddy Locsin, Jr. who was recently in hot waters for saying that the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) shall be shot to death as he alleged the group to be communists.

"It is therefore clear that this is not a matter of implementing the law down to the last letter, but a selective imposition depending on the powers-that-be's prerogatives. It is an issue of repression and punitive actions against dissenters and sentiments that may be seen as 'anti-government.' This is an attack on free speech, on democracy. This is an attempt to sow fear among the people, to dissuade them to speak up about their situation and convictions," criticized Basilio.

ACT further lambasted the government for its 'consistent weaponization of the law' to silence critics while launching a 'massive disinformation campaign.' Such widespread malpractice of state forces earns them a new title – from law enforcers to law abusers.

"We call on fellow defenders of democracy to resist all attempts to trample on our rights and freedoms. Free Teacher Ronnel!" called Basilio.

Mas is the fifth teacher to have been accosted during the enhanced community quarantine. The first ones were Teachers Juliet and Eli Espiñosa of General Santos City, followed by Teacher Dale Gregory Medins on Las Piñas City, then Teacher Edison Carsera of Norzagaray.