‘Online Citizens’ file with SC 21st petition vs. anti-terror law

Published July 29, 2020, 4:46 PM

by Rey Panaligan 

The Supreme Court (SC) docketed on Wednesday, July 29, the 21st petition against the alleged unconstitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).

The petitioners, who called themselves “Concerned Online Citizens,” told the SC that their frequent use of the internet and social media to criticize issues of public concern and acts of public officials may land them in jail on suspicion of terroristic acts under the new law.  

“The Anti-Terrorism Act presents a clear threat on the free exercise by the citizens of their fundamental right to speak on issues of national importance, albeit online,” they said.

They told the SC that many of them “have been labelled, red-tagged and identified as dissenters to the existing policies and leadership.”

Thus, they said several provisions in ATA (Republic Act No. 11479) should be declared unconstitutional as they “cause grave and irreparable damage and injury to anyone whose constitutionally guaranteed rights to exercise freedom of speech, of expression, of the press, and of assembly shall be restrained or impaired.”

They said they “come to the court with their own stories, experiences, and worries: threats of prosecution, direct harassment from high government officials, many of whom have been given new, sweeping powers by the assailed law, and the chilling effect on their followers and the general public engendered by the overly broad, vague and dangerous provisions that could easily be abused and misused.”

They identified the alleged unconstitutional provisions in RA 11479 as Sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 (b), 25, 26, 27, and 29.

They asked the SC to stop the government from implementing ATA and from promulgating the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).

After the comment is filed by those named respondents in the petition, they asked the SC to conduct an oral argument.

Listed as petitioners were Mark L. Averilla, Noelle Theresa E. Capili, Robby Derrick S. Cham, Victor Louis E. Crisostomo, Anthony Ian M. Cruz, Marita Q. Dinglasan, Thyssen C. Estrada, Mark Angelo C. Geronimo, Balbino Pada Guerrero Jr., Jover N. Laurio, John Carlo T. Mercado, Ramond de Vera Palatino, Lean Redino P. Porquia, Marcel Dar Stefan T. Punongbyan, Albert Louis R. Raqueno, Oliver Richard V. Robillo, Julius D. Rocas, Juan Miguel R. Severo, and Ma. Gia Grace B. Sison.

Named respondents were Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra, members of the Anti-Terrorism Council, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and several other Cabinet secretaries.