By Raïssa Robles
When the police or National Bureau of Investigation agents armed with a search warrant, knock at your gate in dead of night to seize your digital devices, and then “invite” you to go with them, would you go?
And should you go?
The case of Rodel Jayme is a test case of how far our rights are being bent and twisted by authorities.
Burly men from the NBI came knocking at Rodel Jayme’s gate at 4 AM of May 2, Thursday, armed only with a “search warrant”, to search and seize his digital devices.
He and the entire household must have been scared out of their wits.
I wonder how many were in that raiding team and how heavily armed they were. I wonder if the force that was brought to bear on Jayme was similar as that used in drug raids.
I would hazard a guess that Jayme was scared. Very scared.
The men had no arrest warrant. And yet the first statement issued by a DOJ official was that Jayme had been arrested.
When Jayme was already under NBI custody, Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete eagerly broke the news to reporters that “the person who uploaded the video was arrested for a cybercrime offense, specifically cyber libel.”
But when Justice Guevarra held his press conference after that, he walked back on that statement and told the media that Jayme had “voluntarily” accompanied the NBI and agreed to cooperate. He had not been arrested.
That very night of his arrest, Jayme was hauled to an inquest for a totally different crime. It was no longer cyber libel—the basis for the search warrant. It was for inciting to sedition.
Can the evidence seized using the search warrant obtained for the crime of cyber libel be used to charge Jayme with another crime?
The contradictory statements from DOJ officials on whether or not Jayme was arrested during the pre-dawn raid continue to be issued.
Today, DOJ acting prosecutor general Richard Fadullon initially told Karen Davila on ANC Headstart the NBI’s basis for arresting Jayme: “After they had implemented the search warrant, they got hold of the computer of Rodel Jayme in his house, invited him to the National Bureau of Investigation, he was just willing to go with them, he wanted to clear his name.”
Notice that Fadullon had used the word “invited”.
After Karen pressed him on the matter, Fadullon conceded that what had happened to Jayme was a “warrantless arrest” because the crime of inciting to sedition was a continuing crime.
But at what point, exactly, was Jayme arrested without an arrest warrant? At that point when he was “invited” to the NBI, based on the crime of cyber libel? Which has not yet been filed to this day?
At what point did his crime change to inciting to sedition?
What happened to Jayme is remarkably similar to what frequently happened during Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship. When the evidence for a crime did not hold, the suspect was charged with another crime. And when the crime did not exist yet, Marcos simply issued a new law making it a crime.
In Jayme’s case, when Karen asked Fadullon for proof that Jayme was inciting to sedition, he said that NBI’s forensic examination of Jayme’s computer found “an exchange or conversation” in his computer “where a certain Marie Nguyen offered financial assistance to Rodel Jayme, exchanges of conversations as to the fear and anticipated talk of quote, unquote, the Magdalo.”
Fadullon also cited the following proofs: “Marie Nguyen mentioning Magdalo’s willingness to give protection to the subject. Marie Nguyen mentioning that there was an investigation by the US DEA (United States Drug Enforcement Administration) on the President and according to a certain Fillmore, the subject might even be declared a hero because he would be known worldwide for being among those who exposed the same for the first time. And this is in the computer (of Jayme).”
Listening to Fadullon, it seems to me that the DOJ and NBI had built up more of a case against the elusive Marie Nguyen than Jayme. Fadullon did not cite any digital proof that Jayme had agreed to Nguyen’s offers and plans.
In fact, Jayme has openly told reporters he had rejected Marie Nguyen’s offers.
One of the saddest things about Jayme’s case is that he does not seem to be aware his rights are being grossly violated.
He was given a lawyer from the Public Attorneys Office. What did the lawyer advise him, I wonder.
The DOJ warned today that future similar arrests are being planned.
To whom can those being invited to the NBI in dead of night turn to in order to question such invitations?
By the way, Jayme himself cleared up why those who had contracted him to put up a website gave him only P2,500. It was not payment for his services, he said last Thursday. The money was to pay for the domain name metrobalita.com of the website.
I’ve also included at the end of this piece a PDF of the landing page of metrobalita.com when it was last crawled by the wayback machine of archive.org on May 17, 2018.
Check it out and see that Jayme is telling the truth, that metrobalita.com was intended to be a news site.
Clearly, from his Facebook page, Jayme was a supporter of the Liberal Party. But when does support of the opposition, or wishing ill of the current administration become inciting to sedition?
To me, Jayme’s case signals an imminent crackdown on media, social media and dissent in general.
Because of this, I recall what human rights lawyer and former Senator Rene Saguisag wrote in the Foreword of my book Marcos Martial Law: Never Again, a brief history of atrocity under the New Society.
Saguisag said that after Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. was arrested on September 1972 but Martial Law had not yet been officially declared by President Ferdinand Marcos, he phoned his uncle, the late Senator Jovito Salonga. “Our decision was to resist, resist, resist.”
Some supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte have sneered that human rights is not worth fighting for because ‘you cannot eat human rights’.
True. It might not bring food to your table.
But you can die for lack of human rights, as thousands died during Marcos’ Martial Law. As Kian de los Santos died two years ago, begging for his life, so he could take a test in school the next day.
Duterte supporters must also remember that the rights that protect critics today will be the same rights they will cling to when the wheel turns.