10th petition filed against anti-terror law

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    A DAY after the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 took effect, various cause-oriented groups and individuals, some of them victims of “red-tagging,” joined calls for the Supreme Court to declare the law unconstitutional.

    It was the 10th petition questioning the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 11479 which took effect on July 18 even without its implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

    Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said the promulgation of the IRR is not a condition for the effectivity of the law.

    The 10th petition petitioners was filed online yesterday morning by groups led by Bayan Muna, Movement against Tyranny, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Pamalakaya, Piston, Health Alliance for Democracy, League of Filipino Students, COURAGE, Salinlahi, Anakbayan, and Karapatan.

    The physical filing will be on July 23.

    The petitioners also asked the SC stop the convening of the Anti-Terror Council (ATC) and the exercise of its functions, the drafting of the IRR, and the constitution of a joint oversight committee.

    The ATC is authorized under the new law to order the warrantless arrest of suspected terrorists and to unilaterally designate persons as terrorists.

    “With the anti-terror law already deemed effective, the petitioners are asking the High Court to stop the convening of the Anti-Terror Council, stop the drafting of the IRR and the convening of the Joint Oversight Committee.The petitioners are asking the SC to strike down the entire law as unconstitutional,” they said in their 137-page petition.

    Like the earlier petitioners, they said the law violates provisions of the 1987 Constitution such as the due process clause because of the “extremely vague definition of terrorism (Section 4), free speech clause (Section 4 and 9 on inciting to commit terrorism), the constitutional right to free association, usurpation of judicial prerogatives (Section 25 on designation of individuals and groups), arrest and detention without judicial warrant (Section 29) and right to bail and travel under Section 34.

    “This patently infirm penal invention poses a chilling effect on every person, regardless of citizenship, whether sojourning or living within or outside the Philippines, so that they will be cowed into silence. It deters or discourages people from freely exercising their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech, expression, assembly and association permitting the government to treat these as terrorism based on the speaker’s or actor’s purported intent is an extremely dangerous proposition,” they said.

    They said with the law, not only the freedom but even the lives of the people are at risk considering the propensity of the administration and security forces to harass and red-tag those who oppose or criticize its policies.

    For the first time, President Duterte was listed as respondent. The others are Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano. The previous petitions only named Medialdea along with Sotto and Cayetano as well as other executive branch officials as respondents.

    Among the individuals who joined the 10th petition were Bayan Muna secretary general Renato Reyes, Sr.Mary John Mananzan, former UP president Francisco Nemenzo, former UP chancellor Michael Tan, former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Bishop Deogracias Yniguez, human rights defender Editha Burgos, playwright Bonifacio Ilagan, former Bayan Muna Rep.Teddy Casino, artist Mae Paner, and activist and urban poor worker Mameng Deunida.

    The first four petitions against RA 11479 were filed by a group of lawyers led by Howard Calleja, Albay Rep.Edcel Lagman, FEU law professor, and progressive lawmakers belonging to the Makabayan bloc. They were followed by former Government Corporate Counsel Rudolf Philip Jurado, Constitution framers Christian Monsod and Felicitas Arroyo along with law professors, labor groups, and party-list group Sanlakas. The 9th petition was filed last week by labor groups led by the Federation of Free Workers.

    The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, in a pastoral letter, said the “bleak political landscape” can be likened to the events prior to the martial law era.

    “The return of ‘warrantless detentions’ through this new law cannot but remind us of the initial moves in 1972 that eventually led to the fall of democracy and the rise of a dictatorial regime that terrorized the country for fourteen years,” said acting CBCP president Bishop Pablo David.

    David noted the 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. He also said government and its allies dismissed warnings from various sectors about the new law being “oppressive and inconsistent with the Constitution.”

    He also underscored the alleged penchant of the Duterte government to silence its staunchest critics including priests falsely charged by the PNP with sedition and inciting to sedition; the imprisonment of Sen. Leila de Lima on the basis of mere allegations; and the closure of the country’s biggest broadcast network, ABS-CBN, after being denied renewal of its franchise.

    Add to this, he said, are the thousands of people who have been killed in police operations on the basis of mere suspicion of involvement in criminality and illegal drugs; and the arrest of people active in social advocacies who are accused of being communists. – With Gerard Naval