SC may not yet tackle, act on petition vs. anti-terrorism law

The Supreme Court (SC) may not be able to deliberate and act immediately during its full court session set Tuesday, July 7, on the first petition that challenged the constitutionality of several provisions in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 which is set for enforcement on July 19.


A check with the SC showed that a raffle would have to be conducted on Monday, July 6, to determine who among the justices will be in-charge of the case.

As a matter of procedure, the justice in-charge will recommend to the full court the result of his or her study for deliberation and eventual action by the SC as a full court.

“Considering the short period from the raffle on July 6 to the full court session on July 7, the justice in-charge may not have sufficient time to prepare a recommendation,” a source said.

“And the other justices, aside from the justice in-charge, would have to make their own study of the issues involved in the petition and may ask for more time before deliberation,” the source also said.

“We will see this Tuesday,” the source added.

Last Saturday, July 4, a group filed electronically with the SC a petition challenging several provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 under Republic Act No. 11479 that was signed into law by President Duterte last Friday, July 3.

The petitioners, led by lawyer Howard Calleja and former education secretary Armin Luistro, said they will file personally the hard copies of the petition before the SC on Monday, July 6.

They pleaded the SC to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the implementation of the law starting July 19.

They challenged as unconstitutional at least 11 provisions of RA 11479.

Among other things, the challenged provisions deal mainly on the definition of terrorism, how terrorism is committed, recruitment and membership in terrorist organizations, surveillance of suspects and interception and recording of communications, and detention of suspects without judicial warrant of arrest.

"While threats to our national security need to be addressed, the law, as crafted, is oppressive and inconsistent with our Constitution, hence, the petition," the group said in a Facebook post.

"This fight against terrorism should not and should never be a threat to the fundamental freedoms of all peaceful Filipinos," it added.

The group pointed out that RA 11479 could be used by the government “to weaponize itself for state-sponsored repression that makes a mockery of the rule of law.”

Named respondents in the petition were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, the secretaries of defense, the interior, finance, justice, and information and communications technology, and the executive director of the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

“Through the Anti-Terrorism Law, the President, with Congress, has paved the way for a legal framework that would allow the government to go against its own people,” the group said in Calleja’s  Facebook post.

“The Anti-Terrorism Law effectively strengthened the powers of the executive (branch of government) by granting powers inherent in the judiciary, making the executive the judge, jury, and executioner,” the group said.

“The group advocates a just and humane law that is for the benefit of all Filipinos. While threats to our national security need to be addressed, the law, as crafted, is oppressive and inconsistent with our constitution, hence, the petition. This fight against Terrorism should not and should never be a threat to the fundamental freedoms of all peaceful Filipinos,” it said.

“The effectivity and implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Act will materially and substantially prejudice basic constitutional rights and may result the permanent contradiction of civil and political liberties,” it added.

Earlier, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said it deferred the immediate filing of a petition against RA 11479  “upon further consultations and deliberation with the clients we represent.”

“It was our consensus to defer, out of abundance of caution, the actual filing of our petition,” it said.

Published reports stated that several Party-List legislators assailed the enactment of RA 11479. One of them said the President signed “the death warrant to the human rights of every man, woman, and child in the Philippines.”

The National Secretariat for Social Action/Caritas Philippines, the advocacy arm of the Roman Catholic Church, said the new law would not only impinge on the public’s constitutionally guaranteed rights but also pave the way for the silencing of legitimate criticism.

Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said that the National Security Council and the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) are set to meet to review the newly-enacted anti-terror law and to craft its implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

Esperon said he will meet with Executive Secretary Medialdea, ATC chairperson.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the signing of the anti-terrorism law “demonstrates our serious commitment to stamp out terrorism, which has long plagued the country and has caused unimaginable grief and horror to many of our people."

"As we have said, the President, together with his legal team, took time to study this piece of legislation weighing the concerns of different stakeholders," said.

Earlier, the DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano said:

“The entire DILG family, including our attached agencies – National Police Commission, Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Philippine Public Safety College, Local Government Academy, Philippine Commission on Women, National Youth Commission, and the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos — would like to thank the 18th Congress and President Rodrigo Duterte for signing the Anti-Terror Bill into law….”

"We assure the Filipino people that this law will never be a tool for oppression nor will it curtail the freedom of speech as it has safeguards against human rights violations and abuses on the part of law enforcers," Año said.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), on the other hand said, it will remain vigilant against human rights abuses with the enactment of RA 11479.

"With the law’s passage, CHR will hold on to the government’s commitment, alongside the sponsors and advocates of this law, that human rights will be upheld at all cost. This includes commitment to protect free speech; the right to dissent and petition redress for grievances; due process and presumption of innocence; and respect for human dignity and the value of human life among others," CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.

"CHR will continue to be vigilant against abuses and will remain firm in standing up for human rights," De Guia added.