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2 petitions vs terror law filed from Mindanao, where terrorism, abuses most felt

DAVAO CITY—The controversial Anti-Terrorism Act could go down in history as the most questioned law ever passed in the country as more lawyers’ and other groups are coming out in the open to challenge its provisions, according to lawyers based in Mindanao, where terrorism and government response to it is most felt.

At least two petitions from Mindanao were filed at the Supreme Court on Monday (Aug. 3) disputing the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act and asking the tribunal to stop its enforcement.

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The Anak Mindanao (Amin) party-list and a group of Moro lawyers and lawmakers petitioned the high court for a temporary restraining order. The other petition, by a group in Southern Mindanao, questioned the law’s constitutionality and asked the tribunal to nullify it completely.

Lawyer Manuel Quibod, director of Ateneo de Davao University’s Legal Office (ALSO), said he had no accurate count of the petitions that had been filed at the Supreme Court. “I only know that more than 20 groups have already filed and today we are filing this,” he said.

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ALSO is one of four lawyers’ groups supporting the petition against the law from Southern Mindanao and Cagayan de Oro City.

Representatives of Moro and lumad people, media and human rights workers here filed their petition through registered mail and by electronic mail.

Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, executive director of the Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus, said at an online forum here that more lawyers’ groups were waiting for actual cases of enforcement of the law, which violate the Constitution, to emerge before joining the growing number of groups challenging the new terror law.

Among the petitioners from here, Haroun Alrashid Alonto Lucman, former vice governor of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), told an online forum that he believed the new law was unconstitutional.

“In the history of Mindanao conflict, human rights violation in Muslim areas committed by the state through its security forces have become the motivation of the youth to join insurgency movement,” said Lucman.

“Now that this kind of conflict has been elevated to a radical level, it remains to be the challenge for the government to win the hearts and minds of civilians so that the youth would not gravitate towards radicalism,” he added.

He said the state should be mindful about human rights violations since these push people to join radical movements and commit “acts of terrorism.”

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He said he feared that the new law would “only embolden the security forces to commit human rights violations on the Bangsamoro population.”

Mario Maximo Solis, station manager of Radyo ni Juan, said the radio company questioned the Anti Terrorism Act because it would obstruct media’s role in taking the government into account for its policies and actions.

“We are worried that these provisions—especially the particular provision on inciting to terrorism—will be used against us as broadcast journalists,” said Solis. “This will prevent us from doing our work and so, we ask the Supreme Court to protect people’s right to know,” he said.

Other petitioners included:

  • Tyrone Velez, a columnist of Sunstar Davao
  • Leonardo Vicente Corrales, associate editor of the Mindanao Goldstar Daily in Cagayan de Oro
  • Jayvee Apiag, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan in Southern Mindanao
  • Salugpungan Ta’Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center whose Lumad schools in different parts of Mindanao had been ordered closed by the military and the Department of Education (DepEd)

Aside from ALSO, lawyers from the Ateneo Public Interest and Legal Advocacy Center, Balaod Mindanao, Free Legal Assistance Group in Southern Mindanao and Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao supported the petition.

In Zamboanga City, lawyer Jamar Kulayan, former education secretary of the defunct ARMM, said he and his group were filing the 83-page petition for TRO because they could not find any other remedy of appeal, no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy available in the ordinary course of law.

“We are expressing our opposition to this Anti Terror Act of 2020 through this petition,” he said, citing the horror and discrimination experienced by Muslim Filipinos during martial law under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

“The experiences of our elders under martial law were extremely horrendous, too excruciating to ever forget,” said Kulayan.

“More than elsewhere in the country, the military might of the state was focused in areas of the country where Muslims live,” he said.

Anak Mindanao Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan described the Anti Terrorism Act of 2020 as a monstrous and “evil” legislation that not only violates constitutional guarantees but also tramples upon almost every known article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“While we, the Filipino Muslims and members of indigenous peoples’ groups remain unprotected from prejudice, this law broadens the influence of the already heavy-handed military and police forces,” she said.

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TAGS: Anti-Terror Act, Constitution, Human rights, Petition, Supreme Court, Terrorism, unconstitutional
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