THE Supreme Court yesterday ordered the consolidation of four petitions challenging the constitutionality of the controversial Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
The decision was reached by the justices during their regular en banc session Tuesday, said court spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka.
Hosaka said the en banc also required the respondents led by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to comment on the petitions “within 10 days from notice.”
The petitions were filed by a group of lawyers led by Howard Calleja, Albay Rep.Edcel Lagman, FEU lawyers led by dean Mel Sta. Maria of the FEU Institute of Law, and progressive lawmakers belonging to the Makabayan bloc.
Lagman and the Makabayan bloc are asking the High Court to declare as unconstitutional the entire law while Calleja’s group and that of Sta. Maria are asking the justices to annul several provisions that they said are unconstitutional.
Several groups are expected to file similar petitions in the coming days.
The National Union of People’s Lawyers earlier said it decided to hold off its plan to challenge the constitutionality of the new law to consider more petitioners and to review facts, issues and procedural requisites of their draft.
Former SC Associate Justice Antonio Carpio previously said he will also join those who are challenging the measure although he did not say what group he will join in filing a petition.
Calleja’s group said several provisions of RA 11479 are “oppressive and inconsistent” with the 1987 Constitution while Lagman questioned what he said are the vague acts of terrorism and terrorists, the prolonged detention of suspects without warrant and redress to grievances, as well as the use of wiretapping and technical surveillance of suspects for up to 90 days and the judicial powers granted to the Anti-Terrorism Council whose members are officials of the Executive Branch.
The Sta. Maria group questioned several provisions in the measure such as the definition of acts of terrorism, grant of judicial powers to the ATC, detention of suspects for up to 24 days without warrant, as well as the alleged interference in the area of academe on what and how to teach.
The Makabayan bloc cited incidents of red-tagging of individuals, including its members, as well as of progressive organizations, as reason enough to strike down the entire law.
The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines asked the tribunal not to allow the new law to take effect.
The AMRSP has said it believes that “draconian” provisions of the law will stifle basic rights and freedoms. It also said the passage of the law is ill-timed as it does not help alleviate the people’s sufferings from unemployment, closure of businesses, and the continuing spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), among others.
“We trust that the good women and men of the highest court of the land will be guided by the common good of all and by the Philippine Constitution,” said AMRSP in a statement.
AMRSP said opposition to the measure should not end with the filing of cases.
“We ask all women and men of goodwill, fellow religious, and all who cherish our rights and freedoms: Stand Your Ground and Be with the Poor and Downtrodden!” it said. – With Gerard Naval