SC told in anti-terror law debates: ‘Chilling effect’ is hesitation in speaker’s mind
MANILA, Philippines — As the oral arguments on the controversial Anti-Terrorism Law continued Tuesday, among the topics tackled were the concerns over the possible “chilling effect” the measure might cause, most especially on freedom of expression and dissent.
In his interpellation of Atty. Alfredo Molo, one of the counsels for the petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Law, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen delved on dissent and the concept of chilling effect.
Leonen asked Molo if former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, a known defender of the country’s sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, stopped advocating about the issues in the disputed waters.
Molo serves as the counsel of the petition filed by Carpio questioning the Anti-Terrorism law.
“No, he did not stop… And in fact, if I know Justice Carpio correctly and I think many of our colleagues know that he is not afraid of even facing the one million People’s Liberation Army of China, when he speaks about the West Philippine Sea. Is that not correct?” Leonen asked, to which Molo agreed.
Leonen went on and asked about Molo’s other clients—such as University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law professors Jay Batongbacal, Theodore Te, Anthony Charlemagne Yu—who continue to advocate on various issues.
“There is always discomfort in dissent, correct? But that discomfort in the dissent does not always justify the content of the dissent. Who knows that the majority might be right and your point of view might be wrong as of the proper moment, is that not correct?” Leonen said, to which Molo agreed.
“In fact, in UP, your clients, the University of the Philippines College of law professors… it valorizes, courage, is that not true?… And therefore, the more that you hit them, the more that you scare them the more that they will come out,” Leonen added.
Are they ‘chilled’?
When Leonen asked Molo if his clients are chilled, Molo responded: “They are chilled, Your Honor.”
“Perhaps you can cover this, this is my point, oh yes, your chilling effect is very subjective,” Leonen said, as he explained that in terms of Molo’s clients—in this case, products of the UP College of Law—they are trained “not to fear anything.”
It was at this point that Molo said that, within the concept of constitutional law, “does not refer to an absolutely chilled population.”
“It refers to that pause in the writer as he composes his words. It is the hesitation inside the mind of the speaker because of a vague and overbroad law,” Molo said.
“It doesn’t know whether the next word that he will say, will be criminal, or in this case, mark him as a terrorist,” he added.
In the case of Carpio, Molo said he believes the former justice will “never be afraid.”
“But it would be another thing to suggest that there is no pause, there’s no hesitation,” Molo said.
Several critics of the controversial measure have pointed out that the Anti-Terrorism Law could lead to chilling effect on freedom of expression, among others.
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