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Opposition vs terror law mounts

/ 04:30 AM July 25, 2020

Opposition to Republic Act No. 11479, or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, continued to mount on Friday as three more petitions disputing the law’s constitutionality were brought before the Supreme Court, bringing to 19 the number of challenges to the law that President Rodrigo Duterte signed three weeks ago.

The latest petitions were filed by a religious group that included a political activist and a Quezon City judge, women’s alliance Gabriela and the Alternative Law Groups Inc.

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The religious group was led by Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, Bishop Reuel Marigza of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines and Bishop Emergencio Padillo of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).

They were joined by 16 other Catholic and non-Catholic bishops, priests, nuns, theology professors and officials of church-based as well as political detainee Rey Casambre and Quezon City Judge Cleto Villacorta III.“The credible threat of prosecution under RA 11479 gives [us] legal standing to bring forth this suit,” they said in their 97-page petition.

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“Religious and church groups are not spared from the government’s counterinsurgency and ‘antiterrorism’ campaigns.”

The UCCP and copetitioner Rural Missionaries of the Philippines protested being branded as fronts for the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army, which the government has officially tagged as “terrorist” groups, while members of another petitioner Sisters’ Association in Mindanao (Samin), complained of having been harassed for protesting against the militarization of Moro and Lumad communities.

Violated due process

They said RA 11479, which added the crime of “inciting to terrorism” and allowed the Anti-Terrorism Council to order the arrest and detention of a suspect for up to 24 days without charges, infringed on free speech and other constitutional rights and violated due process rights.

The petitioners said they and their members have been unfairly branded by security forces as communist fronts due to their social advocacies and feared further harassment under the new law.

Nine officials of Gabriela, led by chair Gertrudes Libang, also enumerated several instances when their officers and members have been harassed or arrested on trumped-up charges.

They reminded the Supreme Court of Mr. Duterte’s order to the military on Feb. 7, 2018 to shoot female communist rebels in the vagina.

“All that belief in the primacy of human rights, democratic ideals are now imploding under the beguiling evil of the antiterrorism law,” Gabriela officials said in their 94-page petition.

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The Anti-Terrorism Act, they said, “render all 36 years of Gabriela working for the rights and interests of marginalized women as an act of terrorism.”

The Alternative Law Groups Inc., comprised of 17 legal advocacy centers, asked the Supreme Court to promptly nullify the law for the protection of “the people’s sacred freedoms.”

“A law which cannot specify the acts that it prohibits cannot be valid,” opened their 135-page petition.

Should be nullified

The antiterrorism law should be nullified, the public interest lawyers said, because it “makes the determination of what conduct is penalized subject to capricious interpretations of enforcers, prosecutors and judges.”

Among the individuals who have filed petitions against RA 11479 are retired Supreme Court justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio-Morales, also former Ombudsman, who asked for a special raffle of the petition, a restraining order to stop the law’s implementation pending the ruling of the Supreme Court and an oral argument.

They were joined in by constitutional law professors from the University of the Philippines, Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea director Jay Batongbacal, Institute for the Administration of Justice Director Dante Gatmaytan, former Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te and senior professorial lecturers Victoria Loanzon and Anthony Charlemagne Yu.

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TAGS: anti-terror law, duterte, Gabriela, opposition, Supreme Court, UCCP
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