“The method by which the State seeks to repress terrorism must not be repressive in itself. Else, the State ironically transforms into a hideous principal terrorist itself, in violation of the Bill of Rights.”
This was the gist of the arguments raised by several groups of lawyers and journalists in a petition they filed before the Supreme Court that sought to declare unconstitutional Republic Act No. 11479, the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).
The groups’ petition was the 27th received so far by the SC since ATA was signed into law by President Duterte last July 3 and implemented by the government starting last July 18.
As in the 26 other petitions, the newly filed case asked the SC to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that would stop the implementation of the law.
The new petitioners are:
- Center for International Law Inc. represented by its president Joel R. Butuyan and members Roger R. Rayel, Gilbert T. Andres, Crispin Francis M. Jandusay, Kimberly Anne M. Lorenzo, Gelia Erika P. Esteban, Elreen Joy O. de Guzman, Niccole S. Carcaina, and Shawn Dustin B. Coscoluella;
- Foundation for Media Alternatives Inc. represented by its executive director Liza Garcia;
- Democracy.Net.Ph Inc. represented by its trustee Carlos Adrian A. Nazareno;
- Vera Files Inc. represented by its president Ellen T. Tordesillas and its journalists Meeko Angelo R. Camba, Anthony L. Cuaycong, Reiven C. Pascasio, Merinette A. Retona, Rosalia C. Revaldo, Elijah J. Roderos, Celine Isabelle B. Samson, Ivel John M. Santos, and Estrelita C. Valderama;
- Professors of the College of Law of Lyceum of the Philippines University Ma. Soledad Deriquito Mawis (dean), Carlo L. Cruz, Marilyn P. Cacho Domingo, Senen Agustin S. de Santos, Marla A. Barcenilla, Romel Regalado Bagares, Juan Carlos t. Cuna, and Johan Paul Alzate dela Pasion.
Named respondents were the Senate, House of Representatives, Office of the Executive Secretary, Anti-Money Laundering Council, Department of Justice, Department of Budget and Management, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the National Bureau of Investigation.
The SC is expected to consolidate the new petition with the other petitions and require the respondents to file their comment.
The petitioners told the SC that “eight of the nine penal provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act are repugnant to the Constitution for transgressing fundamental rights, including the right to freedom of speech, the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances, and the right to freedom of association.”
They said these unconstitutional provisions are Sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 12 of RA 11479.
“Furthermore, eight more provisions -- Sections 16, 17, 25, 29, 34, 36, 45, and 46 -- of the Anti-Terrorism Act are also inimical to the Constitution for transgressing fundamental rights, including the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to privacy, and the right to privacy of communication,” they said.
“Some of these provisions also transgress the due process clause and the Constitutional principle of separation of powers,” they added.
They pointed out that Section 29 of the law “allocates to the Anti-Terrorism Council what is essentially a judicial power by authorizing the ATC to arrest and detain mere suspects even without a judicial warrant.”
“If not immediately restrained or enjoined, ATA will cause grave and irreparable injury to Petitioners as journalists, human rights and rule of law organizations, human rights defenders, taxpayers, Filipino citizens, and/or members of the legal profession, and the entire Filipino people as ATA tramples on fundamental constitutional rights,” they stressed.