44 groups file 10th plea vs. terror law

Some 44 cause-oriented and advocacy groups on Sunday filed the 10th petition before the Supreme Court seeking to declare the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 as unconstitutional.

The petitioners, most of which said they had been subjected to red-tagging by the government, sought to strike down the controversial law, a day after it took effect on Saturday, July 18, even without its implementing rules and regulations.

Represented by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, the petitioners urged the justices to immediately issued a temporary restraining order to enjoin the convening of the Anti-Terror Council (ATC) and the exercise of its functions.

The ATC, under the new law, was given the authority to order the arrest of suspected terrorists and unilaterally designate persons as terrorists.

The petitioners also urged the 15-member bench to stop the drafting of the IRR and the convening of the Joint Oversight Committee under Section 50 of the law.

The petitioners are asking the Court to strike down the entire law for being unconstitutional.

Before the enactment of Anti-Terrorism Act, petitioners argued that they had already been subjected to red-tagging as communists by the government.

"Red-tagging, harassment, and killings of trade unionists continues. Intervention by state security forces in union meetings and affairs, threats and profiling of members--including of a national alliance of teachers--have been reported," the petitioners said.

"The International Labour Organization Committee on Freedom of Association has also raised concerns about 'blanket linkages of trade unions to an insurgency,' placing unionists in situations of extreme danger, they said.

Even members of the legal profession were not spared, they said. A total of 50 have been killed since June 2016, "many who were working on politically sensitive cases or advocating for land rights of farmers and indigenous peoples.”

"As shown, the assailed law serves as the trigger for hands that have long been poised to shoot. Verily, the prosecution and escalated persecution of petitioners are not questions of if, but when and how large a scale the ensuing human rights crisis will be," they said.

The NUPL warned that the controversial law has “a chilling effect” that deters people from freely exercising their constitutional-guaranteed freedoms of speech, expression, assembly and association.

Reiterating the arguments of the first nine petition, the petitioners urged the Court to strike down the entire anti-terrorism law due to the unconstitutionality of the following issues:

The ATA violates the due process clause of the constitution due to the extremely vague definition of “terrorism” under Section 4;

It is contrary to the free speech clause under the Constitution, particularly Sections 4 and 9 (Inciting to Commit Terrorism) of the ATA.

It also violates the constitutional right to due process, right to property, and freedom of association, and for usurping judicial prerogatives because of ATA’s Section 25 Designation of Terrorist Individual, Groups of Persons, Organizations or Associations; It breaches the due process clause and encroaches upon protected freedoms, particularly the ATA’s Sections 26 Proscription of Terrorist Organizations, Association, or Group of Persons and 27 Preliminary Order of Proscription; It violates the constitutional protection against warrantless arrests and detention without charges (Section 29 Detention Without Judicial Warrant of Arrest); and It also counters the constitutionally protected right to bail and right to travel under the law’s Section 34 Restriction on the Right to Travel.

The petitioners include Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes, Jr., activist nun Mother Mary Mananzan, former UP President Francisco Nemenzo, former UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, former NCCA chair Felipe De Leon, former DSWD secretary Judy Taguiwalo, human rights defender Edith Burgos, civil libertarian Renato Constantino Jr., former NAPC undersecretary Corazon Jimenez-Tan, former DSWD undersecretary Malou Turalde-Jarabe, playwright Bonifacio Ilagan, Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, former Bayan muna representative Teddy Casino, artist Mae Paner, journalist Vergel Santos, Prof. Temario Rivera, Francisco Alcuaz, Fr. Freddy Dulay, veteran activist Nanay Mameng Deunida and journalist Vergel Santos, among others.

Representatives from Kilusang Mayo Uno, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Health Alliance for Democracy, Pamalakaya, Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students, Salinlahi, COURAGE, and Piston also joined the petition.

Named respondents in the petition are President Rodrigo Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, and House of Representatives Speaker Alan Cayetano.

The broad range of petitioners are represented by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL): Edre Olalia (President), Ephraim Cortez (Secretary-General), Josalee Deinla (Spokesperson) and Kathy Panguban (Women and Children Committee Head), assisted by Angelo Guillen, Rene Estocapio, Melanie Pinlac, Hilton Lazo and Frank Tiongson.

The petition was filed electronically. The physical filing of the petition will be on Thursday as the Supreme Court is closed for disinfection from Monday to Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Catholic bishops said that the new law reminds them of warrantless arrests and detentions carried out in 1972 under martial law.

In a pastoral letter dated July 16, and signed by Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) acting president Kaloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, the bishops said that warrantless arrest is legalized in the new law, just as it was in 1972 under "ASSOs" (arrest, search and seizure orders).

"We are still in disbelief about the manner in which the contentious Anti-Terror Bill was fast-tracked and approved in both Houses of Congress while the whole country’s attention was focused on the COVID-19 pandemic," the pastoral letter said.

“Dissenting voices were strong but they remained unheeded. None of the serious concerns that they expressed about this legislative measure seemed to be of any consequence to them,” the bishops said. “Alas, the political pressure from above seemed to weigh more heavily on our legislators than the voices from below.”

Presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said the CBCP letter “appears” to have violated the doctrine of the separation of church and state.

“The CBCP only has to trust our judicial system given that adopting an opposite mindset only undermines the legal institutions,” Panelo said.

“The CBCP likens us to 'the proverbial frog swimming in a pot of slowly boiling water.' For its education, we have been in a far worse situation for years due to the favorable treatment which people in power or of influence have been receiving from past governments. The present dispensation has taken us out of this environment through the President's political will in enforcing the law equally to all, bar none, including those [who] managed in the past to be immune therefrom or untouchable.”

Topics: Supreme Court , Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 , Rodrigo Duterte , Salvador Panelo , International Labour Organization Committee on Freedom of Association
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