Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday, July 6, expressed confidence that the Supreme Court (SC) will not favor the petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act.
“I do not think SC justices can be [intimidated] by anyone or the number of petitions. It’s about content! So you are filing? Be my guest!” Sotto, one of the principal authors of the law, tweeted.
In a text message to the Manila Bulletin, he said he is confident that the SC will find the law constitutional and that it will be implemented.
Several groups, as well some lawmakers, have started filing petitions questioning the constitutionality of the controversial law. Groups feared that the law’s “vague” and “broad” definition of terrorism could be abused to violate human rights and silence dissent.
Despite his stand, Sotto recognized the right of critics to challenge the law.
“[That’s] Democracy at work,” he told MB.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, another main proponent of the law, also welcomed the move of groups, saying this would open further discussions of the contentious provisions of the law.
“Kailangan talaga i-encourage nga natin as many petitions na i-file nila mas maganda, para talagang pag-usapan nang husto. (We should really encourage as many petitions as possible, the more petitions filed, the better, so that we could fully discuss this). Mas maganda magkaroon ng oral argument para ang ating SolGen maidepensa nang husto ang constitutionality (It would be better to have oral arguments so that our Solicitor General could defend its constitutionality),” Lacson said in an interview with radio DZBB Monday.
“Pero ina-assure nga natin ang batas na ito (But we are again assuring that this law), is a good law, swift, effective and most importantly constitutional. At umaasa ako lalo sa pamumuno ng CJ ngayon kasi nanggaling sa RTC at Sandiganbayan, sanay siya sa criminal procedure at criminal law, at ma-appreciate nila (And I hope that the SC, especially under the leadership of Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta who came from the Regional Trial Court and the Sandiganbayan and has experience with criminal procedure and law, will appreciate this),” he added.
Sotto and Lacson have previously maintained that critics were misinterpreting the measure that sought to strengthen government measures against terrorism.
On Friday, following President Duterte’s signing of the law, Sotto said “law abiding citizens have nothing to fear”, stressing that the government provides “many liberties and due processes every step of the way.”
The law states that terrorism is committed by a person, within or outside the Philippines, regardless of the stage of execution:
(a) Engages in acts intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to any person, or endangers a person’s life;
(b) Engage in acts intended to cause extensive damage or destruction to a government or public facility, public place or private property;
(c) Engages in acts intended to cause extensive interference with, damage or destruction to critical infrastructure;
(d) Develops, manufactures, possesses, acquires, transports, supplies or uses weapons, explosives or of biological, nuclear, radiological or chemical weapons; and
(e) Release of dangerous substances, or causing fire, floods or explosions.
The law also provides penalties for threats, conspiracy, proposal, and inciting to commit terrorism; recruitment and participation in a terrorist organization, and provision of material support to terrorists.
However, it said “terrorism…shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and pohtical rights, which are not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person’s life, or to create a serious risk to public safety.”
Government officials and law enforcement agencies have assured that they will not abuse the law.