A MULTI-SECTORAL alliance and party-list group yesterday filed a petition before the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of one of the provisions of the controversial Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
The petition filed by Sanlakas is the eighth against the new law.
The first petitions were filed by a group of lawyers led by Howard Calleja, Albay Rep.Edcel Lagman, FEU lawyers led by Mel Sta.Maria, progressive lawmakers belonging to the Makabayan bloc, former Government Corporate Counsel Rudolf Philip Jurado, Constitution framers Christian Monsod and Felicitas Arroyo along with Ateneo de Manila and Xavier University law professors, and the labor rights group Center for Trade Union and Legal Rights and Legal Assistance Center.
Sanlakas, in its plea, asked the SC to declare Section 4, which defines terrorism, as unconstitutional for being a “vague provision” that violates the due process clause of the Constitution.
Section 4 defines the crime of terrorism as acts intended to cause, among others, death or serious bodily injury to any person; extensive damage or destruction to a government or public facility, public place, or private property; extensive interference with, damage, or destruction to critical infrastructure — when their purpose is to intimidate the public, create an atmosphere or spread a message of fear, provoke or influence by intimidation the government or any international organization, or seriously destabilize or destroy the fundamental political, economic, or social structures of the country, or create a public emergency or seriously undermine public safety.
Sanlakas said while the same section exempts such acts as advocacy, protest actions, or dissent and other similar exercises of political and civil rights from its coverage, its subjective features are still subject to the interpretation of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) whose members are officials of the Executive Branch.
It added that it also gives authorities wide discretion and latitude to determine whether protests or mass action are intended to cause death or harm to a person. This, the petitioner said, is dangerous considering that it could be abused by law enforcers on the ground.
“This creates the dangerous situation where the very acts guaranteed and protected by the Constitution can actually be, as applied on the ground, interpreted or assumed due to the vagueness of the subjective feature by the police and military to be the crime of terrorism,” Sanlakas said.
It said protest actions, dissent, stoppage of work and other similar exercises of political and civil rights are precisely carried out to press for reforms of government policies and programs, but with the provision, these can now be considered terrorism due to the provision.
“These constitutionally protected and guaranteed acts can now be considered as crimes of terrorism if accompanied by intent and purpose which are vague, undefined and susceptible to the interpretations of police and military operatives,” it added.