OSG defends move to postpone Anti-Terror Law oral arguments due to COVID-infected ASG

Published January 19, 2021, 8:38 AM

by Jeffrey Damicog

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) defended its position to seek before the Supreme Court (SC) the postponement of Tuesday’s (January 19) oral arguments on the petitions asking to have the Anti-Terrorism Law declared as unconstitutional.


“The Solicitor General apprised the Supreme Court that, along with other staffers, one of the Assistant Solicitors General (ASG) slated to join the oral arguments on January 19 tested positive for COVID-19,” the OSG said in a statement.

The SC granted the request of the OSG and on Friday, Jan. 15, issued an advisory resetting the oral arguments to Feb. 2.

The OSG is representing all the government officials who have been named as respondents by the 37 petitions.

“Conscious of any potential community transmission, the Solicitor General directed an immediate contact tracing and swab testing of individuals who may have had contact with the said ASG and staffers,” the OSG said.

“This was followed by an imposition of office lockdown from January 18 to 20 to disinfect the office premises,” it added.

The OSG issued the statement in reaction to the Jan. 15 Twitter post of former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay who questioned the OSG’s decision to seek the postponement.

Hilbay’s Twitter post read: “This should make everyone pause and reflect with sadness. The chief lawyer of the nation can’t argue an important case bec(ause) some assistants are (allegedly) sick. And the supreme court finds the request meritorious. Parang law student na ayaw mag recite dahil walang ‘radyo’ (It’s akin to a law student who refuses to recite without a radio).”

The OSG said “Florin Hilbay’s malicious tweet last January 15 downplays not only the wisdom of the Supreme Court in postponing the oral arguments but also the serious threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Unlike Hilbay, the Solicitor General takes the COVID-19 pandemic seriously and will not give the virus a chance to compromise the health of the attendees of the oral arguments, especially the Justices of the Supreme Court. His tweet, then, borders on being insensitive, if not outright contemptuous,” it said.

The OSG assured that it is “ready to defend the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Law.

“In fact, the Solicitor General has constantly moved for the conduct of the oral arguments via teleconferencing as an alternative to in-person orals so that it can be done safely and without delay,” the OSG said.

“No amount of mudslinging from a publicity seeking so-called personality desperately trying to liberate himself from the abyss of irrelevance can change that,” it added.