Petitioners in the cases against the alleged unconstitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020 have pressed the Supreme Court (SC) for the issuance of an order that would stop the law’s implementation that started in July last year.
They filed with the SC last Monday, February 22, a joint reiterative motion for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO).
They cited several recent incidents where, they claimed, the police or the military arrested persons, some of them petitioners in the 37 cases against ATA.
Among these incidents, they said, was the police arrest of Chad Errol Booc, a volunteer teacher, and Windel Bolinget, chair of the Cordillera People’s Alliance which is one of the ATA petitioners, at the retreat house of the University of San Carlos in Cebu City for allegedly “recruiting and exploiting minors to be trained as child warriors.”
However, they said, an investigation conducted by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) found “no evidence” of indoctrination to join the communist movement as confirmed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
They also cited the threat aired by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. against online journalist Tetch Torres Tupas for her article on two Aeta tribesmen who were arrested and charged, among others, with violations of ATA. Parlade has apologized to Ms. Tupas, thereafter.
The alleged threats to label ATA petitioners as supporters of terrorists have also been aired by petitioners Antonio T. Carpio and Conchita Carpio Morales, both retired SC justices, they said.
They also pointed out that continuous red-tagging of activists, even advocacy lawyers, by the military and the police.
In reiterating their plea for a TRO, the petitioners said ATA violates at least 15 fundamental rights of the people — on speech and expression, religion, assembly, association, unreasonable searches and seizures, travel, bail, innocence, information, torture, among others.
Almost all the 37 petitions against ATA sought the nullification of the law, passed last July 3, in its entirety. All the cases contained pleas for the issuance of TRO.
The SC has started conducting oral arguments on the petition. After three hearings that started last February 2, only the side of the petitioners have been presented and argued before the High Court.
The scheduled arguments on February 23 have been cancelled by the SC when it announced that some of the justices are on self-quarantine as a health precaution against the corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The continuation of the legal debates has been reset to March 2.