MANILA - Malacañang on Saturday distanced itself from the arrest of a salesman in Agusan del Norte who criticized President Rodrigo Duterte online - another in a string of arrests of those vocal against the president on social media.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, in a Laging Handa press briefing, said the Palace would let authorities handle the case.
“We leave that to the authorities. Sila naman talaga ang nagpapatupad sa batas (They are the ones implementing the law),” he said.
“Pero kapag mayroong maling ginawa ang mga awtoridad, eh kino-correct ng ibang ahensiya ng gobyerno gaya ng piskalya,” he added.
(If authorities make mistakes, other government agencies such as the prosecutor's office corrects it.)
On Wednesday, police arrested Reynaldo Orcullo in Nasipit town for calling the President “crazy” in a social media post.
“Alam na ang pattern, lalabas si [Sen. Bong] Go kunwari hihiling siya sa Pangulong Digong gago, baliw si Digong,” the 41-year-old salesman wrote online.
(We know the pattern. [Sen. Bong] Go will come out and ask for a request to the crazy President. Digong is stupid. Digong is crazy).
The incident came after a string of arrests against those who post negative online comments against the President, including a public school teacher from Sta. Cruz, Zambales.
In a 7-page resolution Friday, Assistant State Prosecutor Jeannette Dacpano said the teacher’s arrest was invalid as it did not fall under any of the situations where a warrantless arrest is allowed, but resolved that the teacher's media confession justified his detention.
“Sa amin po, nagpapakita po ‘yan na gumagana ang ating sistema,” Roque said.
(To us, it shows that our justice system works.)
Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno warned police that “only judges are equipped with the knowledge and impartiality to decide if a person should be jailed for libel.”
“The limited authority given to the police to arrest without warrant is only for crimes that occur in their presence or for hot pursuit,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
“Crimes like libel (especially those where no complaint is filed) were never meant to be the subject of warrantless arrests.”
Diokno said the President himself had cursed at a senator, the Pope, the Catholic Church and many others.
“Hindi trabaho ng PNP protektahan ang Pangulo sa opinyon ng taumbayan. Ang trabaho nyo e protektahan ang taumbayan,” he said.
(It’s not the job of the PNP to protect the President from public criticism. Your job is to protect the public.)