A day after the government started implementing the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020, various cause-oriented and advocacy groups filed electronically with the Supreme Court (SC) Sunday the 10th petition against the alleged unconstitutionality of the new law under Republic Act No. 11479.
Unlike majority of the other petitions which challenged only several provisions of RA 11479, the groups wanted the SC to strike down as unconstitutional the law in its entirety.
They even asked the SC to stop the government from convening the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), which, under the law, can order the arrest of suspected terrorists even without a court order.
At the same time, the groups wanted the SC to stop the government from drafting the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA 11479.
Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said last Friday RA 1149 will take effect at 12 a.m. July 18.
“The effectivity clause of the ATA states that the Act shall take effect 15 days after its publications in the Office Gazette… considering that the law was published on July 3, it will take effect on July 18.”
Guevarra also said: “We’re just about to start drafting the IRR. We have to finish this in 90 days. The IRR will likewise have to be published when it is done.”
But the Justice Secretary said, “The law will take effect even without the IRR because the promulgation of the IRR is not a condition for the effectivity of the law… as some provisions are self-executing like the organization of the ATC.”
In a summary of the petition issued by Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bayan Muna and also a petitioner, the groups said the other petitioners include activist nun Sister Mary Mananzan, former University of the Philippines (UP) President Francisco Nemenzo, former UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, Felipe de Leon, former Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, human rights defender Edith Burgos, civil libertarian Renato Constantino Jr., former Undersecretary Corazon Jimenez-Tan, former Social Welfare and Development Undersecretary Malou Turalde-Jarabe, playwright Bonifacio Ilagan, Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino, artist Mae Paner, journalist Vergel Santos, Prof. Temario Rivera, Francisco Alcuaz, Fr. Freddy Dulay, and veteran activist Nanay Mameng Deunida.
The summary also stated that representatives from Kilusang Mayo Uno, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Health Alliance for Democracy, Pamalakaya, Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students, Salinlahi, COURAGE, and Piston also joined the petition.
They were represented in the petition by the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL).
Named respondents in the petition were President Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, and House Speaker Alan Cayetano.
The petitioners told the SC that even before RA 11479, they have been subjected to “red-tagging as communists” by the government.
“Red-tagging, harassment, and killings of trade unionists continues. Intervention by State security forces in union meetings and affairs, threats, and profiling of members — including of a national alliance of teachers — have been reported,” they said.
They pointed out that even the “International Labor Organization Committee on Freedom of Association has also raised concerns about ‘blanket linkages of trade unions to an insurgency’ placing unionists in situations of extreme security.”
“… the assailed law serves as the trigger for hands that have long been poised to shoot. Verily, the prosecution and escalated persecution of petitioners are not questions of if, but when and how large a scale the ensuing human rights crisis will be,” they added.
Their summary of the petition enumerates the alleged constitutional violations of RA 11479:
1. “The due process clause of the Constitution because of the extremely vague definition of “terrorism” (Section 4 Terrorism).
2. “The free speech clause under the Constitution (Sections 4 and 9 Inciting to Commit Terrorism).
3. “The constitutional right to due process, right to property, and freedom of association, and for usurping judicial prerogatives (Section 25 Designation of Terrorist Individual, Groups of Persons, Organizations, or Associations).
4. “The due process clause and encroaches upon protected freedoms (Sections 26 Proscription of Terrorist Organizations, Association, or Group of Persons and 27 Preliminary Order of Proscription).
5. “The constitutional protection against warrantless arrests and detention without charges (Section 29 Detention Without Judicial Warrant of Arrest).
6. “The constitutionally protected right to bail and right to travel (Section 34 Restriction on the Right to Travel).”
The first eight petitions have been acted upon by the SC which directed the Office of the President and several agencies of the Executive department and both Houses of Congress to comment both on the petitions and the pleas for the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).
The ninth petition, filed by several labor groups led by the Federation of Free Workers, and the 10th petition, filed by cause-oriented and advocacy groups, are expected to be consolidated with the eight other petitions filed the past two weeks since the enactment of RA 11479 last July 3.