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7 lawyers take cudgels for 37 ATA petitioners

Seven prominent lawyers will represent the 37 petitioners seeking to declare controversial Republic Act 11479 or Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 during the oral arguments to be conducted by the Supreme Court on January 19.

In a 27-page joint manifestation, the 37 petitioners submitted the list of lawyers who will argue on their petitions against the anti-terrorism law for being unconstitutional, particularly for being vague and overbroad which is in violation of constitutional rights on free speech and expression.

Former Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz, former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) president, Free Legal Assistance Group chairman Jose Manuel Diokno, and Atty. Alfredo Molo III would argue for clusters 1 and 2; law professor Evalyn Ursua for cluster 3; National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) chairperson Neri Colmenares for cluster 4; Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman for cluster 5; and human rights lawyer Algamar Latiph for cluster 6.

The petitioners also selected six more lawyers as alternates “in the event they fail to appear during the oral arguments for reason beyond their control, and the time allocation for each cluster.”

The alternates are Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Bar Discipline director Randall Tabayoyong, former SC spokesperson Theodore Te, human rights lawyer Josalee Deinla, NUPL secretary general Ephraim Cortez, Howard Calleja, and Bantuas Lucman.

Each of the seven main lawyers will argue on a cluster of issues ranging from whether the SC should issue a temporary restraining order to whether the powers of the Anti-Terrorism Council violate the Constitution.

While the SC had asked for eight lawyers from the petitioners, the petitioners selected only seven, with a request to allow the six alternates to physically attend the oral arguments to assist those who will argue.

They will have a total of 45 minutes to present their arguments.

Calida, who represents the government, may bring only up to three lawyers with him in the first oral arguments the SC will be conducting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All attendees have been required to present a negative COVID-19 RTC-PCR test result taken within 72 hours before the oral arguments.

Retired SC justices, lawmakers, activists, students, artists, journalists, labor groups, and many others filed petitions against the anti-terrorism law, raising concerns it could violate basic rights and legitimize supposed state attacks against government critics and activists.

Based on the SC guidelines, Cluster 1 talks of issues centering on whether the petitioners have legal standing to sue and if Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) or Republic Act 11479 should be declared unconstitutional in its entirety if the Court finds the definition of terrorism, as well as the powers of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), are constitutionally infirm.

Cluster 2 is whether the facial challenge is proper, and if the definition of “terrorism” in Section 4 is void for being vague and overbroad which is in violation of constitutional rights such as free speech and expression. It also asks if Section 5-14 defining and penalizing threats to commit terrorism and others are void for vagueness and overbroad and violate constitutional rights.

Cluster 3 raises the question if the powers of the ATC are unconstitutional.

Cluster 4 asks if surveillance under Section 16 violates the constitutional rights to due process and against unreasonable searches and seizures, privacy of communication and freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Cluster 5 deals with the ATC’s power to detain without judicial warrant based on mere suspicion.

Cluster 6 is about whether RA 11479 violates the Indigenous People and Moro’s rights to self-determination and self-governance under the Constitution.

Topics: Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 , Supreme Court , Jose Anselmo Cadiz , free speech and expression
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