Jul 5, 2020 @ 9:00

First petition vs new Anti-Terror Law filed before SC

The first petition questioning the legality of the newly-signed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 was filed via electronic mail Satuday before the Supreme Court by a group of lawyers led by Ateneo and La Salle law professor and lecturer Atty. Howard “Howie” M. Calleja.

The group said that they would physically file the petition for certiorari and prohibition tomorrow, Monday.

Signed by President Duterte on July 3, the new law will take effect on July 19.

In the interim, the group asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order while the petition was being heard by the SC.

The group sought to stop “all respondents or any person, entity, member, officer, employee, representative or agent acting singly or collectively with them, from enforcing the above-mentioned sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act. ”

Apart from Calleja, UP Law Professor Christopher John P. Lao, Dr. Reynaldo J. Echavez, Napoleon L. Siongco, Raeyan M. Reposar, civic groups Frontliners: Tunay na Bayani and Bagong Siklab Pilipinas, as well as Br. Armin A. Luistro, FSC, of the De La Salle Brothers, Inc. signed the petition.

On the other hand, named respondents 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.

“The group advocates a just and humane law that is for the benefit of all Filipinos. While threats to our national security need to be addressed, the law, as crafted, is oppressive and inconsistent with our constitution, hence, the petition. This fight against Terrorism should not and should never be a threat to the fundamental freedoms of all peaceful Filipinos,” the group said in a statement.

The group expressed concern that the new legislation maybe “used by the government to weaponize itself for state-sponsored repression that makes a mockery of the rule of law.”

“Through the Anti-Terrorism Law, the President, with Congress, has paved the way for a legal framework that would allow the government to go against its own people,” the group said.

“The Anti-Terrorism Law effectively strengthened the powers of the Executive by granting powers inherent in the Judiciary, making the Executive the judge, jury, and executioner,” it added.

In particular, the group wants SC to nullify Sections 3,4,5,9,10,16,17,25,26,29, and 54 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, for being repugnant to the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

Opposition has snowballed against the new law as human rights and religious groups called the attention of lawmakers to the supposed constitutional violations that might occur if the bill is signed into law.

In a statement, the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) which comprises the country’s top Catholic schools and universities stressed that the law is prone to abuse and misuse.

“It can be abused to stifle dissent and curtail rights to free speech, to organize and form associations, to peaceable assembly in redress of grievances,” the AMRSP said

“Terrorism is not our immediate concern. Marawi’s rehabilitation and the continued displacement of communities should be our priority. People’s health, safety, and well-being should be first in our agenda. ”

“These are the urgent concerns that we as a people need to address. These are the challenges that government can address by channeling resources for its resolution,” the group added.

Recently, the Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties (CLCL) claimed that the legislation ‘expanded’ the definition of terrorism, which may allow the government to extensively crackdown on its critics.

“The danger therein lies with how the government can construe legitimate acts of dissent or opposition within these definitions – it gives the government almost free reign in determining who are ‘suspected terrorists,'” CLCL said.

“Even ordinary citizens airing their grievances against government on social media may fall within its ambit,” it added.

Earlier, the National Union of People’s Lawyers thumbed down the law, saying it would only worsen the present administration’s abuses.

“The bill, should it become law, will only serve to worsen the climate of impunity that has made the Philippines fertile ground for extra-judicial killings, illegal arrests, and crackdowns against activists and progressive organizations and even ordinary citizens,” the NUPL said in a statement.

“As such, there is an urgent need to stop the passage of this bill at the earliest opportunity. The dangers it poses are incalculable, and the risks are too great for people to turn a blind eye under the misguided assumption that their own freedoms would not be affected,” it added.

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