21st petition filed against anti-terror law

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    SOCIAL media personality Mark Averilla or Macoy Dubs and 18 other social media influencers and bloggers, and concerned online citizens on Wednesday filed the 21st petition before the Supreme Court against Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

    Also signing the petition were Marita Dinglasan (Aling Marie), Juan Miguel Severo, Jover Laurio (Pinoy Ako Blog), Tonyo Cruz, and Dr. Gia Sison.

    Named respondents were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, AFP chief Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa and officials of the Anti-Terrorism Council.

    Like the previous petitioners, they asked the SC to declare as unconstitutional and void the controversial measure and or several of its provisions, namely Sections 4 to 12 and 25 to 27 and 29 and to stop the respondents from implementing it in any manner.

    The provisions deal with the definition of terrorism, free speech clause inciting to commit terrorism, the constitutional right to free association, usurpation of judicial prerogatives, designation or proscription of individuals and group, and arrest and detention without judicial warrant.

    The petitioners argued they have a “personal and substantial interest” in filing the petition considering the ongoing efforts of the government “to regulate and control content online.”

    “As the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is already in effect, petitioners, individually and/or collectively will be subjected to being tracked down, followed, or investigated, or having their messages, conversations, discussions, spoken or written words tapped, listened, intercepted and recorded through various means, including computer and network surveillance, all of which are violative of their constitutional rights to privacy, free speech, free expression and their right against unreasonable searches and seizures,” the petitioners said.

    “It cannot be overly emphasized that the new Anti-Terrorism Act is highly questionable for its vague and overbroad definition of ‘terrorism,’ which may lead to the capricious and arbitrary application by law enforcers and may chill the people to silence,” they added in their plea.

    Likewise, they stressed that the very vagueness of the said law poses the danger of curtailing constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms such as speech, expression and of the press as this will discourage citizens from airing their opinions on sensitive political and social issues for fear of running afoul of the law.

    Their lawyer, Rodel Taon, dean of the Graduate School of Law San Sebastian College, said the law touches on the “vulnerability and susceptibility of online Filipinos, mostly in social media, to become victims of the vague and broad definition of terrorism under the said law. Our rights, whether online or offline,
    should be protected.”

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