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Lawyers, journalists, activists file 27th petition vs terror law

/ 04:38 AM August 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The passage of the antiterrorism law amid the COVID-19 crisis has betrayed the “government’s design to weaponize the law to suppress fundamental freedoms,” according to the latest petition asking the Supreme Court to nullify Republic Act No. 11479.

A group of lawyers, law professors, journalists and activists filed through their lawyer on Monday the 27th petition in the Supreme Court to strike down the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 for violating fundamental rights under the Constitution.

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“By penalizing acts regardless of the stage of execution, the anti-terrorism act criminalizes a whole range of actions beginning with expressions of thought, to associations of persons, and to the very acts resulting in death, injury or damage including ‘ordinary crimes’ under existing laws,” they said in their 124-page petition.

The latest petitioners were from the Center for International Law Inc. (CenterLaw), Foundation for Media Alternatives Inc. (FMA), Democracy.net.ph, VERA Files lnc. and law professors of the Lyceum of the Philippines.

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“We do not dispute that terrorism is a menace that must be slain,” they said. “Our grand constitutional traditions however do not countenance legal measures … that only transform government into a calculatingly cold and repressive machine, such as the new anti-terrorism law.”

The petition argued that eight of the nine penal provisions of the law are “repugnant to the Constitution for transgressing fundamental rights” such as the right to freedom of speech, the right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances, and the right to freedom of association.

They warned of the likely “misinterpretation, misapplication and grave abuse” in the law’s implementation, since the police and military are given the power to decide whether acts are considered terrorism, and the authority to arrest mere suspects who may be detained for 24 days without charges.

The surveillance provisions in the law authorize invasion of privacy regardless of whether the person is innocent or merely suspected, which violate the right to privacy of persons and their communications and the right of the accused, warned the petitioners.

The power given to the Cabinet-level Anti-Terrorism Council to authorize arrests based on suspicion “tramples on the constitutional standard of probable cause and the exclusive power of the judge to issue warrants of arrest,” they added.

Like the other petitioners before them, the group asked for a temporary restraining order to prohibit law enforcement agencies from implementing the law that President Duterte signed barely a month ago.

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TAGS: anti-terrorism law, journalists, lawyers, press freedom, Supreme Court
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