Revived lawyers' group file 25th legal challenge vs anti-terrorism law
Members of the Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties filed their petition challenging the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 on Thursday, August 6.
JUCRA pool photo
Revived lawyers' group file 25th legal challenge vs anti-terrorism law
Kristine Joy Patag ( - August 6, 2020 - 11:20am

MANILA, Philippines — The Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties asked the Supreme Court to strike down the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 for failing to protect the people’s liberties enshrined in the Constitution.

CLCL members — led by former Vice President Jejomar Binay, former Sen. Rene Saguisag, former University of the Philippines College of Law dean Pacifico Agabin and National Union of Peoples' Lawyers President Edre Olalia — joined the legal fight against the contentious Republic Act 11479 that they said “impairs freedom of expression and its cognate rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.”

“If not so voided, the assailed statute will run roughshod over the 1987 Constitution, particularly its salient provisions on the Bill of Rights,” the petitioners said.

This is the 25th challenge to the law’s constitutionality filed before the SC.

CLCL is a broad network of lawyers and law students first formed during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and was revived in 2019 to protect the people's rights under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

UN report

Part of the petition is anchored on findings of the United Nations Human Rights Office report, released June 4, that found that the Philippine government’s “heavy-handed” focus on combating illegal drugs and security threats—coupled with verbal encouragement from top officials—has resulted in grave human rights violations.

RELATED: UN report: Philippines’ ‘heavy-handed’ focus on drugs, security threats led to serious rights human violations

CLCL said that due to the vagueness of the law, law enforcers are left with “unbridled discretion in carrying out its provisions and becomes an arbitrary flexing of the Government muscle.”

Citing the UN report, the lawyers said that the Philippines is in a situation where “where the governing group has shown obvious disdain for human rights, identifying enemies and scapegoats as a unifying cause, relying mainly on the military and the police, harassing or closing mass media which do not toe the government line, and is completely obsessed with national security.”

The petitioners pointed out that the present administration of Duterte has openly shown disdain “for intellectuals and artists, and is fixated only on crime and punishment.”

 “Human rights violations documented in the Philippines have been exacerbated by harmful rhetoric emanating from the highest levels of Government, which the report described as ‘pervasive and deeply damaging,’” they also said.

‘Take into custody’ is arrest

The petitioners also attacked the Section 29 of the law on Detention Without Judicial Warrant of Arrest. The petitioners said that the use of the phrase “take into custody” and proponents’ defense that this does not mean give the Anti-Terrorism Council with power to “arrest suspected terrorists” is just a ruse.

“It is clear from both the Rules of Court and the Supreme Court that the power to take into custody of suspected terrorists under Section 29 is a form of arrest. There is no question under this law that the ATC is empowered through its police and military agents to ‘take into custody’ or to ‘arrest’ suspected terrorists,” the lawyers said.

They stressed that the Constitution provides that it is the judge that would determine where there is probable cause—this “[raises] the bar in protecting the individuals from unlawful arrests.”

“Under the express terms of the Constitution, it is dubious that the arrest of an individual may be ordered by any authority other than the judge,” the petitioners said.

READ: Ex-SC justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio-Morales, UP law profs challenge anti-terrorism law

The lawyers also pointed out that the ACT is composed of political appointees of Duterte, and their considerations “might vitiate the seriousness and fairness” required in ruling who to arrest.

The ATC is composed of several Cabinet officials, who, under the Duterte administration have military backgrounds and have history of red-tagging.

“Mere suspicion of terrorism would be enough to make one liable to acquire the ire of the ATC and be immediately subjected to its process of arrest. These suspicions are likely to be based on the legally amorphous products of intelligence reports, which will not pass muster the constitutional requirement for due process,” the petitioners said.

“The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 fails miserably to protect and preserve the guaranties of human rights and civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution and therefore must be struck down,” the lawyers told the SC.

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.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with