Jul 5, 2020 @ 9:53

Rights group rejects Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020

KAPATID, the support group for families and friends of political prisoners, on Sunday expressed outrage over the signing of the new Anti-Terrorism Law.

“We will mince no words in censuring this government’s gross attempt to weaponize the law against an increasingly critical citizenry. As we have said, the law will erode our already diminishing democratic rights and institutionalize the crackdown on any form of dissent that will likely increase the number of political prisoners in the country,” said Fides Lim, KAPATID spokesperson.

The group lamented that instead of focusing on efforts that will mitigate the effects of the pandemic, especially the decongestion of jails by releasing medically vulnerable prisoners, the government turned its back against legitimate demands.

“For almost three months since 22 political prisoners appealed for releases on humanitarian consideration, we’re still awaiting the resolution of our petition. One of the petitioners, Reina Mae Nasino, has already given birth but her infant child is now locked up with her in jail simply because of judicial inertia,” she noted.

With the new law, the group said that attacks on activists and ordinary Filipinos asserting constitutionally granted rights will escalate and that prisoners already struggling for survival inside overcrowded jails will suffer more.

“There’s no lawful logic but methodical madness when a government, intolerant of dissent, is not only hellbent on arrests but also worsens the condition of congested jails that puts the lives of every prisoner at greater risk,” she added.

“We already have 619 political prisoners who include human rights workers, trade unionists, peace advocates, and who suffer the brunt of repression by this government. Adding more people to that number reek of the government’s deliberate attacks on the country’s ailing democracy that will only encourage more dissent,” Fides said.

Last Saturday, the first petition against the controversial law was filed via electronic mail 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.

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