SC justices question antiterror council’s authority to detain suspects for 24 days
MANILA, Philippines — Several magistrates of the Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the authority of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) to extend to up to 24 days the warrantless detention of suspected terrorists, with Associate Justice Jhosep Lopez reiterating that the Constitution unequivocally set a 72-hour limit on custody without a judicial order.
Hearing the arguments of the Office of the Solicitor General in defense of the contentious law, the magistrates pounced on several provisions of Republic Act No. 11479, or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, particularly Section 29, which allows a longer detention period for alleged terrorists in the absence of a court-issued warrant.
They also grilled the government lawyers on the ATC’s power to designate suspected terrorists and terrorist organizations which, according to the 37 groups of petitioners, violated the right to due process and presumption of innocence.
Just like the last time, Solicitor General Jose Calida again declined to field questions from the 15-member tribunal as he assigned two of his assistants to defend the government’s position at the continuation of the online oral arguments.
Lopez, a former state prosecutor, said the ATC’s authority to extend the period of warrantless detention was akin to the issuance of an arrest order, a legal authority that the Charter exclusively vested in the courts.
Bringing up the same points raised by Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang, Lopez said the Constitution states that an individual may be held only for an extended period of time without a judicial warrant if the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus has been suspended due to rebellion or invasion.
“Is this not the same as saying that the ATC can issue a warrant of arrest, but in this case it issues a written order to put a person suspected [of committing terrorism] under the custody of the law?” he asked Assistant Solicitor General Marissa Galandines.
“What makes you think that under ordinary times, like … right now when there is no suspension of the [writ of] habeas corpus, you can detain a person [for] as many as 24 days when the Constitution limited it to three days only?” he said.
Lopez said it was as if the government was saying that violating the terror law was more serious than rebellion or foreign invasion “when the life of the nation itself is at stake.”
Struggling to answer Lopez’s questions, Galandines argued that terrorism was “different” from ordinary crimes and that holding an alleged suspect under custody would help prevent the commission of the planned terror acts.
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