Former Vice President Jejomar Binay and former Senator Rene Saguisag on Thursday led the convenors of the Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties in filing the 25th petition before the Supreme Court assailing the constitutionality of Republic Act 11479, or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, that took effect on July 18.
The petitioners asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order to enjoin the implementation of RA 11479 and, subsequently, to declare the ATA as null and void.
They want the ATA declared unconstitutional for its vagueness that they say leads to a “chilling effect, infringement on the right to due process and violation of the equal-protection clause of the Constitution.”
“According to the Supreme Court, a statute or act may be said to be vague when it lacks comprehensible standards that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ in its application,” the petitioners said in a statement.
“The overbreadth doctrine, on the other hand, decrees that ‘a governmental purpose may not be achieved by means which sweep unnecessarily broadly and thereby invade the area of protected freedoms.
“The definition of a ‘designated person’ (Section 3), definition of the term ‘terrorism’ (Section 4) and other penalized acts (Sections 5-12) of the ATA are vague and overbroad, and must be struck down as unconstitutional.”
The petitioners say RA 11479 is vague and constitutes a violation of due process for its failure to accord persons, especially the parties targeted by it, fair notice of what to avoid.
“Such vagueness also leads to a ‘chilling effect,’ and the Supreme Court has ruled that an overbroad statute is unconstitutional because of its ‘chilling effect’ on the freedom of expression. ATA is unconstitutional on its face as its provisions infringe upon the right to due process,” the petitioners said.
“The authority granted by the law to the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) to authorize the arrest of suspected terrorists violates the guaranty of due process under the Constitution. Section 29 of the ATA uses the phrase ‘taken custody of a person’, which according to both the Rules of Court and jurisprudence is a form of arrest that requires a judicial warrant except in cases of warrantless arrests. The due process clause requires the existence of a probable cause before a warrant of arrest is issued.
“The ATA grants the ATC the power to issue the authority to take into custody a person based only on mere suspicion, which would put in constant danger the rights of persons under the Bill of Rights of the Constitution. It would violate not just the rights to life and liberty, but is also inimical to free speech.”
The petitioners also argued that the controversial anti-terrorism law should be nullified because such provision also removed from the judiciary its constitutionally-protected prerogative over the power to arrest, meaning only courts had the power to issue warrants of arrest.
“Therefore, it should not devolve upon officials of the executive, such as the ATC, who is composed of alter-egos of the President,” the petitioners said.
The petitioners also questioned the validity of the provision that allows the detention period of 14 days, extendible to 24 days, of suspected terrorists without criminal charges, which they say violates the right to due process and runs contrary to the three-day limit on custodial investigations under Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution.
“ATA is unconstitutional as it violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution,” the petitioners said.
“The law’s provisions would deny due process to suspected terrorists. The ATA further does not show any indication of the existence of any public emergency that would require the need for a special treatment of suspected terrorists. The ATA unnecessarily carves out the crime of terrorism as outside the realm of the criminal justice system, which is violative of the equal protection clause.”
Besides Binay and Saguisag, the other petitioners in the new case are former University of the Philippines law dean Pacifico Agabin, Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers; Dean Anna Maria Abad of the Adamson College of Law, Anacleto Rei Lacanilao III, Dean J.V. Bautista of John Wesley School of Law and Governance of Wesleyan University-Philippines, Rose-Liza Eisma-Osorio of the University of Cebu School of Law and Emmanuel Jabla.
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