3-day detention limit under Constitution not applicable to Anti-Terrorism Act – gov’t lawyers
MANILA, Philippines — The three-day limit to detaining a suspect under the Constitution does not apply to a suspected terrorist who, under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020, can be detained from 14 to 24 days while under investigation.
Assistant Solicitor General Marissa de la Cruz-Galandines made this point on Tuesday during the resumption of oral arguments on the ATA at the Supreme Court.
Article 7 Section 18 of the Constitution provides for a maximum of three days’ detention of a suspect without any charges being filed on two conditions:
(1) The writ of habeas corpus has been suspended.
(2) The case is rebellion or invasion and public safety requires detention of the suspect.
On the other hand, Section 29 of the ATA allows law enforcers or military personnel to detain suspected terrorists for 14 days, which can be extended by up to 10 days, for the following reasons:
(1) to preserve evidence related to terrorism
(2) to prevent the commission of a terroristic act
(3) The investigation is still ongoing.
“We submit the 1987 Constitution contemplates an extraordinary situation where the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus has been suspended. The ATA does not contemplate such extraordinary circumstance thus there is no ground to apply the three-day limitation found under Section 18 Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution,” Galandines told the Supreme Court.
Associate Justice Jhosep Lopez asked: “Looking into this period of the law, can you not see that, what you were saying under extraordinary circumstances, the maximum limit is only three days and yet under ordinary times like now, the maximum period of detention is 24 days.”
Galandines said the longer detention period would be necessary because “terrorism is different from an ordinary crime.”
The law’s implementing rules and regulation, specifically, Rule 9.2, provides for the arrest without a warrant as related to the circumstances under Rule 113 of the Rules of Court.
Rule 113 states that a law enforcer or civilian can arrest without a warrant someone committing or has just committed a crime in his or her presence or if the person is an escaped prisoner.
But Section 29, the most assailed provision of the law, states that a suspected terrorist can be arrested by any law enforcement officer duly authorized by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC).
During last week’s oral argument, Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang asked how a warrantless arrest could be made by authorities without personal knowledge of the crime committed by the suspect and only on the basis of authorization given by the ATC.
Following that line of questioning, Associate Justice Samuel Gaerlan asked: “Isn’t the IRR inclusion of Rules of Court grounds on warrantless arrest an admission that Section 29 is unconstitutional?”
Galandines, however, maintained it is not.
The basis for ordering an arrest of a terror suspect
Associate Justice Edgardo Delos Santos said that, under the Revised Penal Code, a conviction for light felonies is imprisonment of up to 30 days. But under the ATA, a person can be detained for up to 24 days for merely being suspected of having ties to terrorists or having plans of committing terroristic acts.
“Compared to a person who was convicted for light felonies, the ATA was enacted to protect life, liberty, and property from terrorism. To condemn terrorism as dangerous to the security of the country and the welfare of the people, I don’t think that we could rightfully compare this to a person who was convicted of a light offense,” Galandines said.
Delos Santos asked: “So, in short, the gravity of the offense can be an excuse or justification?”
“We submit so, your honor. There is clearly the legitimate purpose behind section 29. It renders that the period of detention is proportionate to the crime committed or the crime sought to be prevented, which is terrorism,” Galandines said.
“We could isolate the suspect from other members so that we could proceed with the case build-up so that when we do file a case, there is a certainty that the case would stand,” she added.
She said that, if upon investigation, the authorities could not find any basis for filing a case, the suspect could be released. But she added that, “if that same suspect would commit an act that would justify again a valid warrantless arrest, then that suspect can again be arrested.”
The oral arguments will continue on May 11 at 2:30 p.m.
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