Lawyer in arguments vs Anti-Terrorism Act Law says she may be under surveillance
MANILA, Philippines — Evalyn Ursula, a renowned women’s rights lawyer who will be going against state lawyers for the oral arguments on the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, feels that she’s under surveillance.
On Monday night, she said in a Facebook post her neighbors told her that two individuals on a motorcycle took photos of her residence.
She said she had also received strange phone calls in which she could only hear heavy breathing — which she believed to be due to her participation in the much-anticipated oral arguments on the Anti-Terrorism Act at the Supreme Court (SC).
“Motorcycle riding men repeatedly taking photos of my residence according to the neighbors. And strange calls where I would hear only deep breathing from the other end of the line,” Ursua said.
“Hmmm. They are starting on me (again) now? I don’t have anything going on that would merit this except the ATA oral arguments,” she added.
Ursua is one of the 12 lawyers whom the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) would face for the oral arguments, which has been reset to February after some of the OSG personnel who would assist Solicitor General Jose Calida contracted COVID-19.
Other high-profile lawyers participating in the oral arguments include Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) officials Chel Diokno and former SC spokesperson Theodore Te, National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) chair Neri Colmenares, and Assistant Secretary General Josa Deinla, and former Solicitor General Jose Cadiz.
Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite has slammed the alleged surveillance experienced by Ursua, saying that it might be a tactic to scare off lawyers going up against the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act.
“We condemn the surveillance against Atty. Evalyn Ursua. I agree with her assessment that this terror tactic is due to her being a lawyer for petitioners against the Anti-Terror Act. This incident shows how weak their case is that’s why they need to resort to harassment of petitioners’ lawyers. Pero hindi tayo pasisindak,” Gaite said.
“Harassment such as this could continue even as the defenders of the ATA moves to delay the SC oral arguments, so we call on the public to remain vigilant and to stand with lawyers and petitioners in this flashpoint in the fight for democracy,” he added.
The oral arguments have been generating a lot of controversy after the OSG slammed former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay for allegedly downplaying the SC decision to reset the oral arguments, and the infection incurred by OSG personnel.
The Anti-Terrorism Act amended the Human Security Act of 2007 in an effort to step up the government’s counter-terrorism efforts. However, several rights advocates and activist groups dismissed the law as a mere tool to stifle legitimate dissent.
Despite these fears, government officials supportive of the law appeased concerns by saying that there are provisions in the Anti-Terrorism Act aimed at safeguarding human rights. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that fears of the law were baseless, urging critics to give it a chance.
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