Opposition lawmakers, rights lawyers, journalists file 12th petition vs anti-terrorism law
Rights lawyers Chel Diokno and Erin Tañada, and Rep. Kit Belmonte (Quezon City) filed the 12th legal challenge against Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 on Thursday, July 23.
JUCRA pool photo
Opposition lawmakers, rights lawyers, journalists file 12th petition vs anti-terrorism law
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - July 23, 2020 - 11:22am

MANILA, Philippines — Opposition lawmakers, Framers of the Constitution, human rights lawyers and journalists on Thursday joined the growing number of petitioners against the contentious anti-terrorism law.

Rights lawyers Chel Diokno and Erin Tañada, and Rep. Kit Belmonte (Quezon City) filed a Petition for Certiorari and asked the Supreme Court to annul the entire Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA) for being void and unconstitutional.

The petitioners, represented by the Free Legal Assistance Group, also asked the SC to set the case for oral arguments and to issue of a temporary restraining order to enjoin the respondent-government officials from implementing the law.

The petitioners, which include Sens. Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros and Leila De Lima, said that while the ATA meant to serve the State policy to fight terrorism, it “nevertheless hands to government a sledgehammer, a blunt instrument that may easily be wielded to batter down the constitutional guardrails protecting” several freedoms enshrined in the Constitution.

“What is at stake in this case affects every Filipino citizen because it involves the individual right of every person to speak freely on matters of public concern, and the collective right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances. These rights hang in the balance of this case,” they said.

'If it were 1986, the EDSA revolution could not have been possible'

“By its very architecture, the ATA is a weapon against constitutionally protected speech and speech-related conduct,” they said, noting that the law created a “new speech crime of Inciting to Terrorism,” tied to Section 4 of the law that is “breathtakingly vague and overbroad.”

The petitioners argued that due to the overbroad definition of terrorism in the law, it encompassed Constitutionally-protected speech and conduct.

If it were 1986, Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, who urged the public to go to Crame and protect political leaders who withdrew support for the Marcos regime, could have easily been charged and arrested, they said.

And if a religious and civic leader echoes a similar call today, it may qualify as inciting to terrorism.

“Calling on people to gather in a public place to petition the Government for redress of grievances is protected speech,” they stressed.

Similar calls to support a call for the chief executive to step down or from him to be removed by Congress for being physically or mentally unfit—a protected right—may also be swept into definition of inciting to terrorism.

No fair warning to ordinary citizens

The petitioners also said the ATA “fails to give a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice that his or her contemplated speech is prohibited.”

They listed the following examples that may be construed as inciting to terrorism:

  • Social media user Cardo wanting to post a call to urge the people not to patronize a telecommunications, energy and transportation companies owned by a person....known to be very close to the President
  • Teacher Juliet who also wants to post on Facebook that people are going hungry and they should gather at the local gym where relief goods are stocked
  • Worker Bong, appalled by the incoherent ramblings of the president on television, composes a tweet to call the chief executive “buang” (crazy) and unfit to govern the country—and urges others to share his post

Journalists may also be driven to self-censorship so they may not be arrested as terrorists. They would have to toe the line not to write a story that may be misconstrued for intending to cause injury or endanger a person’s life or destruction to property or intimidate the public—all qualifiers of terrorist acts.

Due to the “sheer amount of guesswork, qualification, mincing and moderation,” a good number of journalists may opt to not write at all, the petitioners said.

“The ATA, therefore, is void for vagueness,” the petitioners said.

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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