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Petitions against anti-terror law swamp SC

/ 05:25 PM July 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Petitions against Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is snowballing.

On Thursday, human rights advocates, cause-oriented groups, youth, veteran journalists, lawmakers, and Constitution framers have joined the call for the Supreme Court to declare ATA as unconstitutional.

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To date, there are already 16 petitions pending before the Supreme Court, making this law the most highly contested since the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

The 13th plea was filed by Constitution framers Florangel Rosario-Braid and Edmundo Garcia, Senators Leila de Lima and Francis Pangilinan, journalists, and columnists Ma. Ceres Doyo, Jo-Ann Maglipon, Maria Ressa, and John Nery. They were also joined by human rights lawyer Cel Diokno, former lawmaker Erin Tañada and Rep. Kit Belmonte of the Free Legal Assistance Group.

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The 14th and 15th petitions were filed by artists, cultural workers, and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and 16 youth groups while Muslim groups filed the 16th case.

Two of the three petitions asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order to halt the implementation of the law while the case is pending while one asked for a status quo ante order, meaning going back to when the law is not yet effective.

The petitioners said the ATA that took effect last July 18 was designed explicitly against constitutionality protected speech and speech-related conduct.

NUJP, in their petition, said while the penalties to be suffered and the provision for warrantless arrest, including the number of days in detention are specific, what considered to be the offense is vague.

They said ATA failed to define key terms so that ordinary citizens could quickly determine what is offensive or not. Their case is the 14th filed before the Supreme Court.

“To begin with, it creates the new speech crime of Inciting to Terrorism (Section 9, ATA) and then ties this to a new definition of the crime of terrorism. This new definition of terrorism, found in Section 4 of the ATA, is breathtakingly vague and overbroad,” read the 13th petition.

The youth groups meanwhile said they will also be “at-risk” because of the new law and its vague definition of “Terrorism.”

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“As it is written under the Anti-Terror Law, any form of speech may possibly be punished in connection to Terrorism. In the first place, nowhere in the Anti-Terror Law does it provide an example or metric by which any person may reasonably calibrate the tendency of speech or speech-related conduct to create a serious risk,” the youth groups said explaining that they have been actively engaged in advocacies that are considered legitimate dissent.

Meanwhile, Bangsamoro Muslims, in their case said that while they were grateful for the government’s effort against terrorism, they wanted it effectively suppressed without threatening the constitutional rights of ordinary citizens.

“With the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act, the Sword of Damocles hangs over the head of the ordinary Filipino citizen, especially the Muslims. And the verbal assurance of the government cannot guarantee that no abuses in its enforcement shall be committed,” they said.

To date, eight petitions have already been consolidated by the Supreme Court. The Office of the Solicitor General already submitted its comment on the first four petitions.[ac]

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TAGS: 1987 Constitution, Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, Flag, Free Legal Assistance Group, Freedom of expression, Freedom of Speech, Human rights, Muslim, NUJP, Senator Francis Pangilinan, Senator Leila de Lima, Supreme Court, TRO, Youth
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