Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman on Tuesday registered his strong opposition to an urgent motion for the cancellation of the oral arguments on the 31 petitions asking the Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
In a statement to media, Lagman slammed the attempt of Solicitor General Jose Calida to cancel the oral arguments, “either “in-court or otherwise”, saying there are ways the SC can allow the court debates without violating the safety protocols on the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his motion, Calida said the holding of oral arguments would entail the assembly of numerous petitioners and respondents with their respective counsel constituting mass gathering which is prohibited in areas, like Metro Manila, under General Community Quarantine to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Lagman countered that the oral argument can be held in abeyance in compliance with health protocols, and the Supreme Court can conduct the oral argument in open court session as soon as GCQ is lifted or mass gatherings are permitted.
In support of his “Comment” filed on Sept. 1, 2020 with the Supreme Court traversing Calida’s motion, Lagman cited a number of reasons underscoring the need for the conduct of oral arguments.
“Oral argument provides the enabling venue where the Justices and opposing counsel can instantly interact on major issues, which dialogue cannot happen by merely reading briefs or memoranda,” explained Lagman.
The independent lawmaker said the oral argument will “underscore the major issues” that the SC magistrate may overlook if they will be limited to just reading the pleadings.
“ Oral argument can also be important as an institutional matter because “allowing the parties their day in court before a judicial panel furthers their conviction that they have received the opportunity to be heard that is guaranteed by due process,” Lagman explained.
The veteran solon added: “Lawyers can be aided by questions from the bench as a justice can identify an angle that the lawyers have overlooked or have not fully advocated.”
According to him the justices can also gain “a sense of the counsel’s credibility based on the candid answers and presentation in the oral argument.”