Philippine police have detained a man for issuing an online death threat to President Rodrigo Duterte in what has become the latest in a series of such arrests over the past several weeks.
Shortly before the detention on Tuesday, the man, who was not identified, reportedly wrote on his Facebook page, “200 million [Philippine] pesos (8.7 million dollars) to anybody who kills Duterte; bring me his head here in my barangay [village]”.
The arrest was preceded by the police in the southern province of Cebu last week detaining 26-year-old Maria Ceron for ostensibly pledging 75 million pesos (1.4 million dollars) to anyone who would do a hit job on the Philippine president.
This followed National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents in the Dagupan district detaining a man who allegedly offered “rewards” of 50 million pesos (more than one million dollars) to “anyone who can kill Duterte” in a proposal that they reportedly shared on social media.
The suspect was identified as Ronnel Mas, 25, a teacher at a public school in the Zambales province.
The man, who reportedly deactivated his Twitter account after the post went viral, confessed to issuing the threat, but added that “neither did he have P50 million, nor does he want to have the president killed”.
He was quoted by the media as saying that the only reason for his post was to “gain more followers and retweets”; Mas reportedly begged Duterte for forgiveness.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, however, said in a statement on Wednesday that “apology is not one of the grounds for extinguishing criminal liability; I cannot feloniously injure another and get away with it by merely saying ‘sorry’”.
Mas’ arrest was followed by police in the Aklan province detaining 40-year-old construction worker Ronald Quiboyen after he allegedly said on his Facebook account that he would “double Mas’ bounty offer to kill the president”. Both men are facing cybercrime-related charges as Mas was released on bail of 72,000 pesos (over 3,000 dollars).
Commenting on the arrests, the NBI vowed that they will continue to take action “against anyone who violates the law”, while the Presidential Security Group (PSG) warned not to make online threats to anyone, including political leaders.
“Anybody can be held liable if he threatens to harm or kill a person, what more if the one that is threatened is the president of the republic”, PSG Commander Colonel Jesus Durante was cited by the media as saying.
Philippines’ Duterte Threatens to Shoot Rioters Amid COVID-19 Lockdown
The detentions come after the Philippine president last month pledged a crackdown on those who violate the confinement measures that were introduced by the government in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I will not hesitate. My orders are for the police, the military and the villages, in case there’s trouble and there’s an occasion where they fight and your life is threatened, shoot them dead”, Duterte said in a televised address to the nation in early April.
On 16 March, he announced a six-month state of emergency in the Philippines, a move that stipulates the so-called “community quarantines” being enforced in most of the country, including on the island of Luzon, which includes the capital, Manila and some neighbourhoods in Quezon City, where mass gatherings are now banned, among other things.
The Philippines has already registered 13,434 COVID-19 cases, with 846 fatalities, according to the World Health Organisation’s latest estimates.