The Office of Solicitor General has asked the Supreme Court to cancel the holding of oral arguments on the petitions assailing the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
In an urgent motion, Solicitor General Jose Calida instead proposed the submission of pleadings in lieu of oral arguments, saying logistical restrictions and health risks due to COVID-19 justify a cancellation.
The SC Public Information Office earlier announced that the court will hold oral arguments on the third week of September at the earliest. However, it was not clear whether it will be held at the Court premises or online.
The Solicitor General argued that holding oral arguments when COVID-19 cases are on the rise is “unsafe and impractical.”
Besides, the chief state lawyer said that public gatherings are regulated.
According to Calida, who serves as counsel for the Executive department and other public respondents, holding the event through videoconferencing will still entail a gathering of lawyers and parties, and may be disrupted by an “uneven” quality of internet connections.
As an alternative, the Solicitor General suggested the submission of documents containing all the parties’ arguments, including written answers to clarificatory questions that the court may ask.
It said oral arguments are not mandatory.
During oral arguments, the magistrates personally ask the parties and their lawyers on issues relevant to the petitions. The proceedings, which could last for several hours, are held at the court’s session hall.
The OSG also asserted that the petitions are defective because many of them contain factual allegations that could not be tried by the court.
Calida said the petitions failed to establish an actual case of controversy that would justify the use of the court’s power.
There are at least 29 petitions that have been filed before the high court, making the new measure one of the most challenged laws in the country.
Among the petitioners include retired justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio-Morales and some of the framers of the 1987 Constitution who have challenged the anti-terrorism law. They are joined by human rights advocates, lawyers, journalists, labor groups, youth leaders, and several others.