Council okays 'Terror' IRR; SC sets debate

The Anti-Terrorism Council has approved the draft implementing rules and regulations of the controversial Republic Act 11479 Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

“We will disseminate copies to the Congress and to law enforcement agencies as required under the law, and will publish the IRR online and in a newspaper of general circulation in the next few days,”

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a text message to reporters.

Guevarra, who is a member of the ATC, said the IRR was drafted by a technical group led by the Department of Justice.

According to Guevarra, the IRR will take effect upon publication and registration with the Office of the National Administrative Register.

The DOJ chief admitted that the IRR does not carry a specific provision pertaining to social media regulation.

Meanwhile, the SC is presently formulating the issues to be tackled during oral arguments that may be slated late next month or early December on the 37 petitions seeking to challenge the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

A highly-placed source said that the justice in charge of the consolidated petitions is currently formulating the issues that may be covered by during the oral arguments on the petitions against the anti-terrorism law.

The issues threshed out by the justice-in-charge would be submitted for approval by the SC En Banc.

In a related development, a suspected Indonesian suicide bomber who was arrested in Sulu over the weekend looms as a potential test case for the newly signed ATA -- particularly its provision penalizing "inchoate offenses."

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said that the bombs and other items seized from Nana Isirani (a.k.a. Rezky Fantasya Rullie or Cici) indicated she was preparing to take part in a terrorist attack.

Rullie was arrested with two other women believed to be wives of Abu Sayyaf members in Jolo, Sulu last Oct. 10.

Also, the Movement Against Tyranny called on the Executive Branch not to pre-empt the Supreme Court’s action on the 37 petitions filed before it seeking to declare the ATA of 2020 unconstitutional.

“The fact that there are 37 petitions in the SC against the Anti-Terrorism Law should make authorities think twice about coming out with an IRR. With so many questionable dangerous provisions, authorities should exercise extraordinary prudence in implementing this controversial law,” the group said.

The group added that there are fears that the law will be used to clamp down on freedom of speech and expression, with AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay admitting that they want the IRR to contain provisions for regulating social media.

After the approval, the SC would schedule a preliminary conference with all the petitioners in the cases and thereafter set the dates for oral arguments.

With this development, it would mean that the SC would likely inclined to deny the motion of the Office of the Solicitor General to cancel the oral arguments that had been tentatively set last month “at the earliest.”

The OSG, in seeking to cancel the oral arguments, cited the restrictions on movement and mass gatherings due to COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the OSG’s motion had been opposed by many of the petitioners in the 37 cases filed with the SC.

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta earlier explained that the SC has not yet ruled on the OSG’s motion nor decided on the dates of the oral arguments because of the filing of several other petitions which need comments from respondents.

Almost all the petitions filed so far against ATA pleaded for the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order which would stop the implementation of the law that started last July 18. All the petitions asked that RA 11479 be declared unconstitutional either in part or in its entirety.

RA No. 11479 was signed into law by the President last July 3.

Thirty-six of the 37 petitions have been officially docketed as of October 2 based on the list obtained from the SC’s judicial records office.

Authorities confiscated items including an improvised explosive device disguised as a vest, container pipes, and a nine-volt battery.

"This is one example of an inchoate offense made punishable under the new Anti-Terrorism Law,” ssid Lacson.

By including inchoate offenses as punishable acts under the new measure, the law criminalizes the foregoing acts of the arrested suspects which include planning, preparation and facilitation of terrorism and possession of objects with “knowledge or intent that these are to be used in the preparation for the commission of terrorism," Lacson, who sponsored the anti-terrorism measure in the Senate, said in his speech before the Philippine Army Multi-Sector Advisory Board Summit.

Lacson pointed out that one of the new features in the Anti-Terrorism Law is the penalizing of "inchoate offenses," or preparatory acts that are deemed criminal even without the actual harm being done, provided that the harm that would have occurred is one the law tries to prevent, such as terrorism.

The new feature aims to prevent terrorism even before the actual commission of the violent terrorist act by making planning, preparing, and facilitating acts of terrorism as independent criminal acts already punishable by reclusion perpetua without the benefit of parole.

He said penalizing inchoate offenses is made pursuant to the mandate under United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 1373, which states that planning and preparation, among others, are established as serious criminal offenses in domestic laws and that the punishment should duly reflect the seriousness of such terrorist acts.

Lacson said he was informed Monday night by police investigators that Sulu Provincial Prosecutor Anna Marie Pierreangeli Ledesma had advised against the filing of cases under the new anti-terrorism law pending the release of the IRR.

Prosecutor Ledesma recommended instead the filing of a case in violation of Republic Act 9516 or illegal possession of explosives against Rullie.

When Lacson learned of Ledesma's recommendation, he became concerned and contacted Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who assured him that he would issue the proper guidance to the provincial prosecutor in filing charges against Rullie.

"(Secretary Guevarra told me) he stands by his earlier pronouncement that the Anti-Terrorism Law is already in effect upon its publication on July 18, 2020, and its application is not dependent upon the issuance of the IRR," Lacson said.

He added that Guevarra called the Prosecutor General to instruct the provincial prosecutor in this regard.

Lacson likewise reiterated that while the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 gives authorities the legal backbone to fight terrorism, it also puts a premium on respect for the rule of law and constitutional liberties such as the right to due process.

Topics: Anti-Terrorism Council , Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 , Menardo Guevarra
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