Foreigner who made inflammatory remarks convicted

Ed Mundsel Bello Ello at a court appearance in April. He was convicted of promoting feelings of ill-will and hostility yesterday.
Ed Mundsel Bello Ello at a court appearance in April. He was convicted of promoting feelings of ill-will and hostility yesterday.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

A Filipino who made disparaging comments about Singaporeans through his Facebook page, and then lied to police repeatedly, pleaded guilty yesterday.

The prosecution is now seeking a sentence of 20 weeks in jail for Ed Mundsel Bello Ello, calling his remarks "xenophobic, derogatory and highly inflammatory".

District Judge Siva Shanmugam adjourned sentencing to Sept 16.

On Jan 2, the 29-year-old had labelled Singaporeans as "loosers (sic) in their own country" and vowed to "take their jobs" before "evicting" them from here. Claiming that Singapore would be the "new Filipino state", he also prayed for disasters to strike the country.

The post made on The Real Singapore Facebook page, which went viral on social media, was criticised by Filipinos and Singaporeans.

Worried about the repercussions, the assistant nurse, who was eventually sacked by Tan Tock Seng Hospital, lodged a police report the next day claiming a stranger had accessed his Facebook account and posted those statements. He added that the stranger must have used a computer at a Lucky Plaza cybercafe he had logged on to. Police seized the cybercafe terminal along with two of Ello's mobile devices. These were sent for forensic analysis. Only after he was confronted with evidence did he confess that he made the post using his "Edz Ello'' Facebook account from his home.

Yesterday, he was convicted of one charge under the Sedition Act, for promoting feelings of ill-will and hostility. Ello, who is on bail, also admitted his guilt on two counts of providing false information to police.

An additional charge under the Sedition Act, and another for lying to police, will be taken into consideration during sentencing.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan said that since mid-last year, Ello had a habit of making inflammatory comments about Singaporeans, including using a Facebook account where he posed as a Chinese woman.

Describing Ello's Jan 2 comments as hate speech, the DPP said they provoked a large number of Singaporeans. "More than 600 replies were published on various forums online, many of which were vitriolic in substance," he said, adding that numerous police reports were filed against Ello.

He also pointed out that Ello has yet to apologise for his post.

Ello's lawyer Mark Goh said the comments were intended to stir up the emotions of those who frequented sociopolitical websites, but his client ended up being alienated and "flamed" by the netizens.

"The irony in this case was that Ed effectively shot himself in the the foot,'' he said, adding that a sentence of six weeks in jail was sufficient if the court decides on a custodial sentence. "This incident has already extracted a terrible price to both himself and his family. He alienated himself from Singaporean society... lost his job and his retired parents have lost a source of income for the family."

The maximum penalty under the Sedition Act is a $5,000 fine and three years' jail. For giving false information to a public servant, he could be jailed for up to a year and/ or fined up to $5,000 per charge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2015, with the headline 'Foreigner who made inflammatory remarks convicted'. Print Edition | Subscribe