Despite the rains in Manila on Monday morning, Party-List organization Sanlakas filed with the Supreme Court (SC) a petition to declare unconstitutional a provision in the Anti-Terrorism Act that “crosses into the Constitutionally protected areas of free speech, free expression, and free assembly.”
In its petition, Sanlakas, represented by its president Marie Marguerite M. Lopez, asked the SC to declare unconstitutional Section 4 of Republic Act No. 11479 which was signed into law by President Dueterte last July 3. The law is set for implementation on July 19.
The petition is the 8th case lodged with the SC on the alleged unconstitutionality of RA 11479. All petitions pleaded for a temporary restraining order (TRO) that will stop immediately its implementation.
Last week, the SC acted on the first four cases when it required the Office of the President and several agencies in the Executive Department and both Houses of Congress to comment on the petitions and their pleas for TRO within 10 days from receipt of the resolution.
It was reported that the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), which will file the comment on behalf of the Office of the President and the executive agencies, has received an official copy of the resolution.
It is expected that the SC will consolidate the four more petitions with the first four petitions it earlier received and acted upon.
In its petition docketed as Government Records (GR) No. 252646, Sanlakas told the SC that the “exercise of the people’s freedom of speech and expression and freedom of assembly is categorically protected by Section 4, Article III of the 1987 Constitution.”
However, it said, Section 4 of RA 11479 declares “advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights” as a crime of terrorism when such is “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….”
It also said Section 4 of the law declares advocacy, protest, dissent, and similar acts as terrorism when the purpose “is to intimidate the general public or a segment thereof, create an atmosphere or spread a message of fear, to provoke or influence by intimidation the government or any international organization, or seriously destabilize or destroy the fundamental political, economic, or social structures of the country, or create a public emergency or seriously undermine public safety.”
Sanlakas pointed out that “advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, and industrial or mass actions are the forms and vehicles of free speech and expression utilized by the people, including petitioner Sanlakas, in the exercise of their rights as citizens under the Constitution.”
It said that “the right and duty of the State to combat the scourge of terrorism must be recognized but this cannot be at the expense of our people’s hard-earned and hard-fought Constitutional rights and freedoms.”
It asked the SC to “declare and strike down Section 4 of RA 11479, The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, as null and void for being in violation of Section 4, Article III of the 1987 Constitution, and for being a vague provision violative of the due process rights….”
The first seven cases against RA 11479 were filed by the group of lawyer Howard Calleja and former education secretary Armin Luistro, Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, the group of Law Dean Mel Sta. Maria and several professors of the Far Eastern University (FEU), the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives led by Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, former head of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel Rudolph Philip B. Jurado, the group of former members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission Christian S. Monsod and Felicitas A. Aquino and their group from the Ateneo Human Rights Center, and two labor groups represented by the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) and the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center (PLACE).