Bloggers, netizens voice opposition to Anti-Terrorism Law

Internet and social media personalities on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to declare Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 as unconstitutional.

In a 21st petition filed against ATA before the high court, the netizens who called themselves “Concerned Online Citizens” urged the SC to declare Sections 4 to 12, 25 to 27 and 29 as void and unconstitutional.

The petitioners also pleaded the high court to restrain the government from implementing the law and promulgating its implementing rules and regulations.

Apart from Mark Averilla, more popularly known as Macoy Dubs, among the other petitioners include Jover Laurio of the Pinoy Ako Blog, spoken word artist and film and television writer Juan Miguel Severo, and columnist Tonyo Cruz

The petitioners said that they have their own experiences and stories of threats of prosecution, harassment from government officials, and the “chilling effect” on their followers and the public caused by “overly broad, vague and dangerous provisions that could easily be abused and misused.”

“Would the mere mention or reportage by petitioners, members of the media and the public in the online space of organizations and persons designated as ‘terrorist’ by executive officials make them liable under the law?” the petitioners asked.

The social media personalities argued that ATA’s definition of terrorism, and consequently of its related crimes, is vague and overbroad, hampering the free exercise of fundamental rights.

“It cannot be overly emphasized that the new Anti-Terrorism Act is highly questionable for its vague and overbroad definition of ‘terrorism’, which may lead to the capricious and arbitrary application by law enforcers and may chill the people to silence,” the social personalities said, in in their 52-page petition.

They also assailed the provisions on the designation and proscription of individuals and groups as terrorists and the provision allowing the warrantless arrest of suspected terrorists and their detention of up to 24 days before having to be charged in court.

Earlier, SC has ordered the consolidation of the first 19 petitions against the anti-terrorism law.

These were filed by retired justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio Morales, four members of the commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution, lawmakers, lawyers, professors, youth leaders, journalists, artists, labor groups, and activists.

Despite reassurances by the government that the law will not be used to target activists, critics urged the SC to strike it down due to what they said were unconstitutional provisions.

Among the most challenged provisions are the “vague” definition of terrorism and the up-to-24-day detention of suspected terrorists before they have to be charged in court -- a period eight times longer than the limit set by the Constitution for persons arrested in times of invasion or rebellion when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended.

Topics: Republic Act 11479 , the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 , Concerned Online Citizens

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