'Influencers' bring opposition to anti-terrorism law from social media to Supreme Court
"Influencers" file the 21st legal challenge against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
JUCRA pool photo
'Influencers' bring opposition to anti-terrorism law from social media to Supreme Court
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - July 29, 2020 - 4:02pm

MANILA, Philippines — Known internet personalities and influencers are taking their opposition to the anti-terrorism law outside their social media circles all the way to the highest court of the land.

Nineteen “influencers,” under “Concerned Online Citizens” group, urged the Supreme Court to strike down several parts of the Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 as unconstitutional and void. They also asked the tribunal to conduct oral arguments on their petition.

The petitioners include Macoy Dubs, Aling Marie, bloggers Tonyo Cruz and Jover Laurio, artists Rob Cham, Albert Raqueño and Juan Miguel Severo, and mental health advocate Dr. Gia Sison.

San Sebastian College of Law Dean Rodel Taton serves as their legal counsel in the 21st legal challenge the law is facing at the SC.

“The assailed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is like a sword hanging over the heads of citizens who are now mostly conducting on the [internet] interactions, transactions, commerce and business, media consumption, availment of government services and public debate on national issues,” they said.

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The anti-terrorism law itself a ‘terrorist’

The social media users stressed that the “arbitrary” application of the laws against citizens merely exercising their right to free expression in the internet, even before the enactment of RA 11479, does not inspire confidence.

They cited the move to deport a Filipina OFW in Taiwan over a post against President Rodrigo Duterte and the arrests of a teacher in Olongapo, of Cebu-based artists and even of “online protesters.”

The petitioners stressed that cyberspace in the Philippines must be free, as the Bill of Rights and international human rights obligations also apply to the internet.

They said that the anti-terrorism law only accomplishes what actual terrorists and corrupt government officials wish to do: “Create a climate of fear, limit our liberties and freedoms, evade and pass accountability for their acts, and disrupt our supposedly democratic way of life.”

The petitioners said they ran to the court as “the expectations and reality are right before the faces.”

They argued that surveillance mechanisms and the threat that they may be labelled as “terrorists” or “terrorist sympathizers” are apparent. They also noted that government spokespersons, and no less than President Rodrigo Duterte himself, have “labelled critics as enemies of the state and in a matrix of in televised speeches called them out as terrorists and destablizers.”

They petitioners enjoy a following in their social media accounts and told the court that they post commentaries on their Facebook, Twitter, Tiktok or Instagram accounts.

The petitioners said that with the law in full force, they may be “tracked down, followed, or investigated or having their messages, conversations, discussions, spoken or written words tapped, listened, intercepted and recorded through various means, including computer and network surveillance.”

These actions, they asserted, “are violative of their constitutional rights to privacy, free speech, free expression and their right against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

“The Anti-Terrorism Act presents a clear threat on the free exercise by the citizens-netizens of their fundamental right to speak on issues of national importance, albeit online,” they said.

ANTI-TERRORISM LAW SUPREME COURT
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