Oral arguments on 37 petitions challenging the constitutionality of the Ant-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020 resume on Tuesday, March 2, after last week’s postponement when some Supreme Court (SC) justices opted to undergo self-quarantine as precaution against corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
A check with the SC showed that one of the 15 justices tested positive for COVID-19. However, subsequent tests had shown negative results.
Tuesday’s, March 1, continuation of ATA legal debates would be the fourth day of the arguments that started last Feb. 2.
Only the petitioners through their counsels have presented their side on the alleged unconstitutionality of ATA.
The presentation of the government’s side, through Solicitor General Jose C. Calida, will follow.
Thereafter, the SC is expected to call its appointed “friends of the court” (amici curiae) to present their statements on the issues involved in the petitions.
Former Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno and former SC Associate Justice Francis H. Jardeleza have been appointed “friends of the court.”
Last Feb. 22, petitioners against ATA pressed the SC for the issuance of an order that would stop the law’s implementation that started in July last year.
In their reiterative motion for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO), the petitioners 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.
It was not known if the reiterative motion for TRO would be tackled in Tuesday’s resumption of the oral arguments.
Almost all the 37 petitions against ATA sought the nullification of the law in its entirety. All the cases contained pleas for the issuance of TRO.