Jul 6, 2020 @ 10:16

Edcel Lagman: Anti-Terror Law must be jettisoned entirely

Opposition Representative Edcel C. Lagman of Albay on Monday filed a petition before the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the newly-signed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

Calling the legislation as replete with constitutional infirmities, Lagman stressed that it must “be jettisoned in its entirety,” saying the derogation of freedom is not the price of security and peace, but the precursor of people’s unrest and righteous resistance.

He cited the following unconstitutional provisions of the new law:

(1) The redefinition of the crime of terrorism is cast in vague and ambiguous language so much so that there is no certitude on what acts are proscribed and the people are perplexed on what acts to avoid.

(2) The indispensable element of political or ideological motive has been deleted which compounds the incompleteness and imprecision of the new law even as it facilities the arrest, prosecution, and conviction of suspects.

(3) The criminalization of “threat”, “proposal”, and “inciting” to commit terrorism has chilling effects deterring the exercise of the right to free speech and dissent.

(4) The imposition of a maximum of 24 days of prolonged detention of a suspect without a judicial warrant or without charging him before a judicial authority is an unreasonable seizure of a person in violation of the Bill of Rights.

(5) A maximum of 90 days technical surveillance and wiretapping of communications is an unreasonable invasion of a person’s privacy which is guaranteed by the Constitution.

(6) An inordinately long maximum of six-months investigation of a suspect’s bank accounts and the freezing of his assets, both without judicial authorization, and the open-ended freezing of property or funds in certain circumstances, constitute unreasonable seizure of one’s assets.

(7) The designation of a person or association as a terrorist without judicial intervention or authorization infringes on the freedom of association and due process.

(8) The grant of judicial powers to the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) violates the doctrine of separation of powers.

Despite the repeated claims of the authors of the new anti-terrorism law that it provides adequate safeguards to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, Lagman asserted that in fact the following safeguards previously provided for in the repealed “Human Security Act of 2007” have been abandoned:

(a) Inclusion of the universally recognized political or ideological motive as an indispensable element of the crime of terrorism to distinguish it from common crimes of violence, and prevent the contrived accusation and prosecution of progressive activists and those in the political opposition;

(b) Non-criminalization of “threat”, “proposal”, and “inciting” to commit terrorism to preclude abridgement of the freedom of speech;

(c) Maximum of only three (3) days detention without a judicial warrant of arrest;

(d) Before detaining a suspected terrorist, it is mandated that he must be personally presented to a judge who shall determine why he has been arrested and observe whether he has been tortured;

(e) Arrest of a suspected terrorist must be based on prior surveillance and/or examination of his bank accounts to prevent indiscriminate or arbitrary arrests;

(f) Requirement of prior judicial authorization for the investigation and search of bank deposits and records as well as the freezing of property or funds of a suspected terrorist;
(g) Right of a suspected terrorist to be informed about the ongoing wiretapping of his communications as well as the investigation of his bank accounts and deposits to afford him the opportunity to challenge and controvert the actions of the law enforcers and AMLC;

(h) The technical surveillance and wiretapping can only be made if there is no other effective means of securing the needed evidence; and

(i) There is adequate penal sanction for securing maliciously an order authorizing wiretapping based on ex-parte application.

“To reiterate, all of the foregoing safeguards have been obliterated in the new law.”

“The so-called safeguards in the “Ant-Terrorism Act of 2020” are mere motherhood declarations which are eroded by oppressive provisions and a killer proviso that negates any concession to advocacy and dissent,” Lagman said in a statement.

Lagman asked the SC for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a writ of preliminary injunction to prevent the enforcement of the challenged law pending adjudication by the Supreme Court.

Lagman stated that “what the government must pursue is the apprehension, prosecution and conviction, once warranted, of terrorists without ensnaring into contrived culpability persons who simply exercise free speech and peaceful assembly.”

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