THERE are at least 38 petitions filed with the Supreme Court by a motley group of individuals and organizations against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA) or Republic Act No. 11479 that became law when President Rodrigo Duterte signed it last July 3.
All the petitions pleaded the High Tribunal to declare RA 11479 unconstitutional, in part or in its entirety. Most of the petitioners pleaded for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) that would stop the implementation of RA 11479 which started last July 18.
The SC has decided to consolidate all the petitions into one case which will be resolved by its full court or en banc. It has required all respondents to comment on both the petitions and the pleas for TRO.
‘…February 2 is the day many of the top legal minds of the nation will clash on the issue of Anti-Terrorism Law.’
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), in its comment in earlier petitions, asked the SC to dismiss the cases. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the OSG has also pleaded for the cancellation of the oral arguments earlier announced by the SC.
Meanwhile, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), one of the petitioners, urged the SC to begin at once the oral arguments on the ATA after it was moved to a later date. February 2 was the date picked by the Supreme Court to start the oral arguments, after Solicitor General Jose Calida said some of his staff tested positive for the coronavirus 2019. These oral arguments were originally scheduled on January 19. Clerk of Court Edgar Aricheta said no further postponement will be allowed.
We see merit in the statement of IBP president Domingo Cayosa that the SC should hasten the process of hearing both camps in this highly contentious and divisive issue. Cayosa said this is not an issue that concerns only the 38 groups that filed petitions against the law. It concerns the whole Filipino nation as “it could violate basic rights and be used to brand critics as possible terrorists.”
Cayosa correctly pointed out that the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is not limited to the present dispensation, the time of President Duterte. It will cover subsequent governments, he said. The IBP president said we cannot be sure what kind of government, officials and law enforcers we will have in the future. “If we go by their track record, this law can be abused. Not only in the national level, but also in the local level,” he said.
So February 2 is the day many of the top legal minds of the nation will clash on the issue of Anti-Terrorism Law. We will watch and cover this most intently.