SC orders government to justify legality of anti-terror law

The Supreme Court has ordered the government to file its comment justifying the constitutionality of the controversial Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020.

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During the en banc session on Tuesday, the SC magistrates gave the respondent government agencies and officials 10 days to answer the consolidated petitions filed by groups and personalities challenging the constitutionality of the anti-terrorism law.

READ: Anti-terror law critics ask SC to suspend it

SC spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka said the high court also required the government agencies tasked to implement the ATL to comment also within 10 days on the plea of the four groups of petitioners for the issuance of a temporary restraining order seeking to enjoin the implementation of the law.

The SC also ordered the consolidation of the four petitions which include Lawyers Howard Calleja, Joseph Peter Calleja and Christopher Lao and De La Salle Brothers led by former education secretary Armin Luistro; opposition lawmaker Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay; Far Eastern University Law Dean Mel Sta. Maria and other law professors of the said university; as well as opposition solons belonging to the so-called Makabayan bloc.

The Supreme Court said: “The four petitions are petitions for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for issuance of a temporary restraining order, and writ of preliminary injunction. They all related to Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

“Thus, the Supreme Court ordered the consolidation of the four petitions, and required respondents to file their respective comments on the petition and application for TRO within a period of 10 calendar days from notice.”

The petitioners are seeking to declare as unconstitutional Section 4 of ATL, saying it violates basic rights of the people under the Constitution; Sections 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, and 22 as these provisions violate the fundamental right to privacy; the designation power of the Anti-Terrorism Council under Section 25 as it violates during process rights; preliminary order of proscription, under Section 26 and 27 for being unconstitutional; the period of detention without judicial charge under Section 29 for being arbitrary, unreasonable and unjustified; and Section 34 as it impairs the constitutional right to bail.

Contrary to the claim of the government and the authors of ATL, the petitioners argued that its Implementing Rules and Regulations cannot rectify the deficiencies and excesses in the new law because the IRR cannot modify, amend or repeal a statute.

Named respondents in the petition were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, the secretaries of defense, the interior, finance, justice, and information and communications technology, and the executive director of the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

Meanwhile, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has joined the list of international personalities supporting calls to junk the anti-terrorism law in the Philippines.

In a tweet on Monday, 17-year-old environmental activist Thunberg threw in support for Filipino climate activists who have been speaking up against the controversial measure.

Thunberg retweeted a Fridays For Future post which supported fellow climate activists in the Philippines.

“Please support the climate activists in the Philippines! #JunkTerrorLaw,” Thunberg said in her Twitter post.

Fridays For Future is a movement that began in August 2018 when Thunberg and other young activists began a school strike for climate.

“The anti-terror law puts climate activists and environmental defenders at risk of being tagged as terrorists,” Fridays For Future warned.

Aside from Thunberg, youth climate groups from different countries including Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, Portugal, Taiwan, and France, among others, have also posted about the Philippines’ anti-terrorism law in response to the global movement.

The law, expected to take effect on July 18, will impose stiffer penalties for “terrorists” and those found to be helping or engaging in related acts. It also allows suspects to be arrested without warrant and detained without charges for up to 24 days.

Some critics also argued that it might be used to target those who simply express criticism against the government.

However, a number of local security officials as well as lawmakers have repeatedly dismissed these claims, saying citizens have enough safeguards under the Constitution.

One of the petitioners, Rep. Lagman expressed hope the Supreme Court would uphold the Constitution in deciding on the measure.

"We trust the Supreme Court will uphold the majesty of the Constitution by purging the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 of patently unconstitutional provisions and assuring that civil liberties would flourish," Lagman said, adding "We supplicate for justice and protection for the beleaguered Filipino people."

ional security and the protection of basic rights are dual obligations of the State which are not antagonistic because they are mutually reinforcing."

Meanwhile, Esperon’s recent statement saying the critics of the new ATL could be supporters of terrorists was a “dangerous leap in logic that endangers the lives of many independent voices opposing the draconian measure,” Gabriela Partylist Arlene Brosas said on Tuesday.

“He is resorting to the classic Bush counter-terror antic ‘it's either you're with us, or you're against us,’ in an attempt to cheapen the debate, intimidate and sow fear among critics of the law, and dodge pressing constitutional issues,” said Brosas in a statement.

Esperon maintained the new anti-terrorism law did not target activists and dissenters of the government.

Meanwhile, human rights watchdog Karapatan on Tuesday called on the government to address and respond to the “very relevant, valid, competent, and independent comments and questions” raised by nine United Nations Special Procedures on the Anti-Terrorism Act, which the rights group assailed as a “monstrous and draconian piece of legislation that will heavily impact on the human rights situation in the Philippines.”

READ: UNHRC chief to Du30: Don't sign terror bill

In a recently published communication to the Philippine government dated June 29, 2020, the UN Special Procedures expressed serious concerns on the Anti-Terrorism Act amid the designation of individuals, civil society, and humanitarian organizations as “terrorists” in the “context of ongoing discrimination directed against religious and other minorities, human rights defenders, and political opponents.”

Citing several applicable international human rights law standards including core human rights treaties and obligations — of which the Philippines is a signatory — as well as numerous UN Security Council resolutions on rights obligations on combatting terrorism and violent extremism, the UN experts voiced their apprehension on the newly signed law, which they averred is susceptible to abuse.

“In our view, the [Anti-Terrorism Act] uses a definition of terrorism that is overbroad and vague, making it susceptible to the abuse of numerous rights enumerated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” the UN Special Procedures stated.

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said “there is great cynicism on the assurances of principal authors and movers of the said legislation on its supposed human rights safeguards because of the ambiguity of the letter of the law itself, the notoriety of the would-be implementers of the law, and the prevalent State policies that result in political repression, suppression of dissent and civil liberties, and rampant impunity in the country.”

READ: NSA blasts terror law critics

Topics: Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020 , Supreme Court , Brian Keith Hosaka , Karapatan , UN Security Council , Greta Thunberg
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