Jul 6, 2020 @ 11:28

FEU law professors, Dean Mel Sta. Maria question legality of new Anti-Terror Law

Far Eastern University law professors led by Dean Mel Sta. Maria on Monday filed a petition before the Supreme Court questioning the legality of several provisions of the newly-signed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

In an 84-page petition, the group stressed that Sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12; Sections 25, 26, and 27; and Section 29 of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 are, on their face, in gross violation of the 1987 Constitution and prevailing jurisprudence.

” Their implementation shall have a serious and dangerous chilling effect on
the citizens and other persons’ freedom of expression, speech and the
press, as well as other important fundamental rights under the 1987
Constitution, such as but not limited to substantial and procedural due
process, the right to privacy, freedom of association, and academic
freedom, ” their petition reads in part.

In the interim, they asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order stopping the government from implementing these assailed provisions pending decision on the petition.

Saying they are concerned citizens, taxpayers and members of the Philippine Bar, the group said the new legislation was enacted in excess of jurisdiction and in grave abuse of its discretion.

They added that they filed a petition by way of a “facial” challenge to the patently unconstitutional provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which created a “chilling effect” and result in the
prior restraint of freedom of speech, of expression, of the press, of association, and of assembly.

Also, they noted that the new law has called for the creation of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) and granting it enourmous powers like determining who are terrorists, and to detain them of up tp 24 hours without court warrants.

“In the pursuit of this mandate,
the ATC has been given a plethora of powers and functions, including
but not limited to the power to, among others, “grant monetary rewards
and other incentives to informers who give vital information leading to
the apprehension, arrest, detention, prosecution, and conviction of any
persons found guilty of any of the acts defined and penalized under
Sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the Act, ” the petition reads.

Furthermore, the group questioned before the high court Section 4 of the new law that defined acts that should fall under terrorism.

“It indubitably gives law enforcement agents and military personnel unbridled discretion to arbitrarily flex their muscle in carrying out its provisions merely on the basis of their ‘suspicion,’ intuition or understanding. ”

“The chilling effect that these provisions of law have on the exercise of the constitutional rights to freedom of speech, of expression, of the press, and of assembly should cause this Honorable Court to rule that these provisions are, as they are, unconstitutional. ”

“If this law will be allowed to take effect, it will legitimize wrongdoings, allow transgressions to constitutional liberties, and give license for wrongdoers to act with impunity,” they said.

Also, they noted that Sections 5 to 12 of the law defining ancillary or secondary offenses, including inciting to commit terrorism, are patently vague and overbroad.

“Said provisions create a ‘chilling effect’ that would constitute prior restraint to, and stifle the free exercise of, such fundamental freedoms.”

They also claimed that the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 would end up interfering in academic institutions “on what and how to teach,” especially that both the Commission on Higher Education and the Department of Education have been included as support group of the ATC.

” It will inevitably result to the persecution and prosecution of free thoughts and ideas, including academic teachings and learnings, on constitutional rights, freedoms, and democracy as being indispensable components of the exercise of sovereignty.”

” On its face, the Anti-Terrorism Act clearly includes provisions that
have serious ramifications on the free exercise by well-meaning
citizens of their fundamental right to speak on issues of national
importance.”

“A cursory examination of the offenses punished as acts of terrorism, proposal to commit terrorism, membership in a terrorist organization, inciting to terrorism, and providing material support to terrorists will yield to no other conclusion but that this penal statute
punishes acts that include speech elements, whether they are oral,
written, or manifested through symbolic speech, ” they said.

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