A COALITION of journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders, activists and law professors yesterday joined the growing opposition to the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 as they asked the Supreme Court to declare the new law unconstitutional.
It was the 27th petition to be filed with the High Court about a month after President Duterte signed the measure into law amid fears it could legitimize attacks against activists.
Led by the Center for International Law (CenterLaw), the petitioners also asked the SC to “issue a temporary restraining order and or writ of preliminary injunction” to prevent the enforcement of the law while the merits of their petition is being heard.
Joining CenterLaw in the petition are the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) Inc., Democracy.net.ph Inc, VERA Files Inc., and individuals such as journalist Ellen Tordesillas, lawyer Romel Regalado Bagares, and law professors from the Lyceum of the Philippines led by its dean, M. Soledad Deriquito-Mawis.
Named respondents in the petition are Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, the Senate and the House of Representatives, officials of the Anti-Terrorism Council as well as Armed Forces chief, Gen. Gilbert Gapay, PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa and National Bureau of Investigation office in charge Eric Distor.
In a 24-page petition for certiorari, the petitioners questioned the passage and signing of the law, saying it was done with grave abuse of discretion considering that “many of its salient features are contradictory to the 1987 Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights.”
They said the “haphazard enactment’” of the measure reveals the government’s misplaced priorities in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and bares the government’s design to “weaponize the law to suppress fundamental freedoms.”
In particular, the petitioners said eight out of nine provisions of the anti-terrorism law, Sections 4 to 10 and 12, are “repugnant to the Constitution for transgressing fundamental rights, including the right to freedom of speech, the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances, and the right to freedom of association.”
“Furthermore, eight more provisions — Sections 16, 17, 25, 29, 34, 36, 45, and 46 — of the Anti-Terrorism Act are also inimical to the Constitution for transgressing fundamental rights, including the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to privacy, and the right to privacy of communication. Some of these provisions also transgress the due process clause and the Constitutional principle of separation of powers,” they added.
Among those who are questioning the legality of the measure are former SC justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio Morales, former Vice President Jejomar Binay, several lawyers, lawmakers, human rights advocates, youth groups, labor rights groups, journalists, and artists.
Earlier, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the measure can be implemented even without the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) if needed since it already took effect on July 18. But he advised law enforcement agencies to better wait for the IRR, especially if there are no imminent threats.
He said there are sections of the law that needed to be fleshed with more detail for the guidance of everyone to prevent confusion or even abuse in its implementation.
The DOJ has 90 days within which to craft and release the IRR.