ACT-Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said on Friday the Supreme Court’s (SC) ultimate decision on the multiple petitions to junk the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 will show just how independent and upright it is.
“Sukatan ito ng integridad at independence ng Supreme Court (This is a way to gauge the Supreme Court’s integrity and independence),” Castro said during a virtual press conference of the militant Makabayan bloc.
She said that on Wednesday, a group filed the ninth petition against the controversial measure before the High Court. The petitions assailing the Duterte administration-backed Anti-Terrorism Act are expected to be consolidated before the magistrates tackles them.
“Masusukat natin dito ‘yung independence at integridad talaga ng bawat associate justice ng Supreme Court na tignan ‘yung talagang consititutionality nito, ang clamor ng mga tao (We can measure here the independence and intergrity of each of the associate justices of the Supreme Court, to determine its constitutionality as well as listen to the clamor of the people),” Castro added.
Of the nine petitions challenging the legality of the Anti-Terrorism Act, two came from lawmakers. One was filed by the six-member Makabayan bloc while another was lodged by fellow administration critic Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.
“Sana makita nila ang validity of our arguments para mabasura itong Anti-Terror Law (I hope they see the validity of our arguments in praying for the junking of this Anti-Terror Law),” Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said during the online presser, referring to the SC members.
“It’s an independent body but you know, ang ating din namang mga mahistrado, sa tingin namin dahil sila naman ay hindi isolated from the realities na nangyayari sa ating bayan, ay sana ay makita nila ang kabuang sitwasyon (We do hope our magistrates can look at the entire situation, since it is our belief that they aren’t isolated from the realities occurring in our country),” he said.
Pointing to the filing of the ninth petition against the anti-terror law Thursday, the House Deputy Minority Leader said: “Ibig sabihin talagang malawak ‘yung mga tumututol dito. Maging ang mga mambabatas sa ibang bansa, kahit na ang United Nations ay nagpakita ng kanilang opinyon (This means that there is widespread opposition to it. Even lawmakers from other countries and the United Nations have expressed their opinion on it).”
President Duterte certified the measure as urgent while it was being deliberated upon by Congress last month.
Zarate had earlier claimed that the new anti-terror law “expanded and overly broadened the definition of terrorism to make it easier for authorities to declare legitimate acts of expression, collective action, and dissent protected by the Constitution as terrorism.”
“Most dangerous yet is that this new anti-terror law grants vast discretionary powers to the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), composed of Cabinet officials, mostly from the defense and security sectors, that have heretofore been reserved to courts,” said the lawyer-congressman.
He said the ATC has the power to designate individuals and groups as terrorist, authorize the warrantless arrests and detention for up to 24 days, freeze bank accounts and other assets, and conduct sweeping surveillance on private communications.