Lawyers file first petition vs. anti-terrorism law

By CNN Philippines Staff

A group of lawyers on Saturday filed with Supreme Court the first petition challenging constitutionality of the new anti-terrorism law.

The petition, which was filed electronically, called for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and a writ of preliminary injunction as well as other “injunctive remedies” against the newly signed law, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

Specifically, petitioners led by Ateneo and La Salle law professor and lecturer Atty. Howard M. Calleja are seeking to nullify Sections 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 16, 17, 25, 26, 29 and 54 of the law as they argued that these provisions are “repugnant and perilous” to the constitutional rights of Filipino citizens, including free speech.

They pointed out that these sections run counter to the Constitution and have implications on free expression; therefore the high tribunal should prohibit any entity or authority from enforcing them.

For example, Sections 3 and 16, which permit the secret wiretapping of suspected terrorists, violate the right of an individual to privacy and correspondence, the lawyers said.

Section 4 and 5, meanwhile, define punishable acts that constitute terrorism and criminal threats to commit terrorism vaguely and over-broadly, which could lead to different interpretations as well as “selective” enforcement.

The same implication could be true for Section 9, which states that anyone who is guilty of “inciting to commit terrorism,” will face a 12-year imprisonment.

Sections 10, 25, 26, which penalize recruitment and membership in a suspected terrorist organization also “infringe the freedom to associate for lawful processes.”

Section 29 allows the arrest of suspected terrorists without any warrant and detained without charges for up to 24 days, which the petitioners said violates the right of a person against unlawful arrest under the Article III, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution.

Section 29 allows the arrest of suspected terrorists without any warrant and detained without charges for up to 24 days, which the petitioners said violates the right of a person against unlawful arrest under the Article III, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution.

Petitioners said they will physically file their appeal on Monday.

Other petitioners are Atty. Joseph Peter J. Calleja, UP Law Professor Christopher John P. Lao, Dr. Reynaldo J. Echavez, Napoleon L. Siongco, Raeyan M. Reposar, civic groups Frontliners: Tunay na Bayani and Bagong Siklab Pilipinas, as well as Br. Armin A. Luistro, FSC, of the De La Salle Brothers, Inc.

Meanwhile, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, who also plans to question the provisions of the act, including the “broad” definition of terrorism, told CNN Philippines on Saturday he will file a plea once the law comes into effect, which is 15 days after its publication in the Official Gazette or on July 19.

Diokno expressed fears that the new crime “inciting to commit terrorism” could be used against critics, like how “inciting to sedition” was used to charge him and other opposition figures in 2019 for their supposed involvement in an ouster plot against President Rodrigo Duterte.

defender of the law earlier said the act qualified actions that would not be considered as terrorism such as advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar actions in exercising civil and political rights.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he has anticipated petitions against the controversial statute.

Guevarra added the first appeal “is a positive development, as it provides all parties concerned the appropriate forum for the resolution of all the legal and constitutional issues involved, with finality.”

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