The Supreme Court will hold on January 19, 2021 oral arguments on the 37 petitions challenging the constitutionality of Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020.
In an advisory, the SC also summoned lawyers of the 37 groups of petitioners to a preliminary conference on November 26 to tackle the coverage of the oral arguments.
The hearing will be held at the SC’s En Banc session hall.
The high court also enumerated the issues for discussion in the oral arguments.
The petitioners and the government, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General, will have to argue their position on issues ranging from legal standing to questions on the law’s language and provisions on surveillance, terrorist designation, and warrantless arrests.
The parties would also have to argue whether or not the court should issue a temporary restraining order or a status quo ante order.
Each side has 30 minutes to present their arguments. Solicitor General Jose Calida may bring up to three lawyers with him, the SC said.
There are 37 petitions questioning the constitutionality of the anti-terrorism law, which was enacted despite concerns that it could legitimize alleged state attacks against government critics and activists under the guise of an anti-terrorism campaign.
Petitioners belonging to the militant groups argued that the government’s “red-tagging” or “terrorist-tagging” of people and groups it perceives to be communist rebels or fronts puts their lives in danger.
The petitioners cited for instance the case of the two Aetas who were charged under the new law allegedly as a form of “reprisal” by the military for the death of a soldier in a supposed encounter with the New People's Army. In another, a progressive religious organization’s assets were frozen for alleged terrorism financing.
Calida had previously asked the SC to cancel the oral arguments, citing COVID-19 health risks and logistical constraints.