Groups of Filipino youth join legal fight vs anti-terrorism law
Youth leaders filed the 14th petition against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 before the Supreme Court on Thursday, July 23.
News5/Marianne Enriquez, via Twitter
Groups of Filipino youth join legal fight vs anti-terrorism law
Kristine Joy Patag ( - July 23, 2020 - 1:33pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Filipino youth on Thursday joined the legal fight against the much-feared anti-terrorism law in the highest court of the land.

A total of 16 groups representing the Filipino youth, including university student councils and student groups, on Thursday filed the 14th petition of certiorari against Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 before the Supreme Court.

The petitioners asked the SC to strike down as unconstitutional several parts of the anti-terrorism law that they called as the “latest attempt to use the law as a means to further suppress potential dissents and gag the Filipino people into submission.”

Like the petition filed by retired SC Justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio-Morales, and University of the Philippines law professors, they also asked that the SC set the petition for oral arguments,

 “As the government chooses to instead prioritize new ways to curtail free speech and due process, Youth Petitioners are duty-bound to fight for the protection of their rights, and they are constrained to resort to the Honorable Court to seek redress, hoping—perhaps to idealistically—that their rightful qualms would be heard,” their petition read.

Lawyers Dino De Leon, who previously asked the SC to compel releasing of the president’s health bulletin and Norma Singson-De Leon serve as the lead counsel of the petitioners.

Youth most 'at-risk' in new law

As with previously filed petition, this latest legal challenge assailed the “vagueness” of Sections 4 and 9 of the law, which define acts that fall under terrorism and inciting to terrorism, respectively.

“As it is written under the Anti-Terror Law, any form of speech may possibly be punished in connection to Terrorism. In the first place, nowhere in the Anti-Terror Law does it provide any example or metric by which any person may reasonably calibrate the tendency of speech or speech-related conduct to create a serious risk,” their plea read.

The petitioners said that the vague language of Section 4 of the law leaves its interpretation to the hands of State.

“The fact that Anti-Terror Law leaves citizens, especially the youth, at risk of unknowingly violating the law in the exercise of their constitutional freedoms, especially when they are usually involved in speaking out against the abuses of the State, renders the same unconstitutional,” they added.

The petitioners raised that as the youth, their advocacy for change that is protected by the Constitution may still run the risk of being interpreted as punishable by the anti-terrorism law in the opinion of law enforcers.

Due to its vagueness, the youth, like the rest of the citizenry, “are left in a position where it would be more preferable to stay silent and avoid the exercise of constitutionally-protected speech, primarily out of fear of being subject to the overly-broad discretion of the officers.”

They implored the SC that as the youth, they actively engage in public discourse and take part in activities involving dissent—a rightful exercise of the freedom of expression, “which are at risk of prosecution under the Anti-Terror Law.”

BAYAN, NUPL file physical copy of petition

The threat of COVID-19 forced the SC to close its gates for three days for disinfection, but this did not stop petitioners from firing legal challenges against the contentious law.

Labor and peasant groups led by BAYAN and represented by the National Union of Peoples Lawyers electronically filed the 11th petition on Sunday—the first plea since the law took effect, following the Palace’s theory that it became on the 19th.

As soon as the SC opened its gates on Thursday, NUPL lawyers filed a physical copy of their petition.

"People’s liberties — even their lives — would be at the mercy of a law enforcer’s own understanding of 'terrorism'...the exercise of these rights would be held hostage by imagined threats, the kind that the current administration routinely concocts in the face of criticism, dissent or opposition to its questionable policies and odious proclivities," NUPL earlier said on their petition.

Another petition was filed on Wednesday, this time from retired Judiciary luminaries, Carpio and Carpio-Morales. They are joined by professors of UP College of Law.

The Carpios’ petition has also been physically filed Thursday morning.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 14, 2020 - 2:35pm

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Anti-Terrorism Law on July 3 despite opposition from rights groups and civil society groups that it could be used to stifle human rights.

A petition against the law has been filed at the Supreme Court and other groups are preparing pleadings of their own.

Follow this page for updates. Photo courtesy of The STAR/Michael Varcas 

October 14, 2020 - 2:35pm

The Anti-Terrorism Council has aproved the Implementing Rules and Regulations for the Anti-Terrorism Law, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirms.

The implementing guidelines were crafted by a technical working group led by the DOJ, he also says.

"We will disseminate copies to the Congress and to law enforcement agencies as required under the law, and will publish the IRR online and in a newspaper of general circulation in the next few days," he says.

August 30, 2020 - 12:47pm

Desaparecidos, an organization made up of families of victims of enforced disappearances, is worried that more may go missing under the anti-terrrorism law.

"We fear that Duterte's terror law will enable State forces to resort to extraordinary measures such as abductions and enforced disappearances like what they did to my daughter to instill fear on its critics and activists as the government spins out of control because of the pandemic and the ailing economy," Erlinda Cadapan, Desaparecidos chairperson and mother of missing University of the Philippines student Sherlyn Cadapan, says in a statement.

She says that Section 29 of the Anti-Terrorism Act allows detention without charges for up to 24 days "practically opens up the option for State forces to resort to enforce disappearance rather than complying with legal requirements to detain suspects."

August 25, 2020 - 9:30am

The Free Legal Assistance Group, which represents senators and media practitioners in a petition against the Anti-Terrorism Act, urges the Supreme Court to issue a temporart restraining order against the new law.

The group says the statement of Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gilbert Gapay to regulate social media is "repression in broad daylight."

"At the very least, the foregoing statements of the AFP Chief of Staff confirm that the ATA is both so overbroad and vague that it is susceptible to being used for an unconstitutional end, that is a weapon against free speech and dissent," the motion read.

August 24, 2020 - 12:57pm

Solicitor General Jose Calida asks the Supreme Court to cancel the oral arguments on the petitions against the anti-terrorism law.

Calida cites logistical restrictions and health threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that oral arguments would entail the presence of members of the Court, at least 300 petitioners and their counsels, 16 OSG lawyers and support staff.

"Further, the sheer number of participants will make it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain social distancing within the En Banc Session Hall. In this regard alone, even puttig the matter of the age and health vulnerabilities of some of the participants aside, it is submitted that their physical presence for in-court oral arguments is inadvisable," Calida says in his urgent motion.

August 3, 2020 - 2:47pm

It is not the intention of the anti-terror bill to regulate social media, says Rep. Ruffy Biazon (Muntinlupa), co-author of the anti-terrorism bill that is now a law, on Twitter.

Biazon is reacting to a statement from the military that what it calls a "very, very good law" that is "comprehensive" be applied to social media.

The controversial Anti-Terrorism Law is now being challenged by more than a dozen petitioners at the Supreme Court as it is seen to have vague provisions allowing abuses against rights to free speech, due process and privacy.

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