CenterLaw, VERA files and Lyceum law profs assail anti-terrorism law
The Center for International Law leads the 27th group of petitioners assailing the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
JUCRA pool photo
CenterLaw, VERA files and Lyceum law profs assail anti-terrorism law
Kristine Joy Patag ( - August 10, 2020 - 12:12pm

MANILA, Philippines — Rights lawyers, journalists, internet rights advocates and law professors on Monday trooped to the Supreme Court to join the legal fight against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

Center for International Law (CenterLaw) led the group of petitioners in asking the high court to issue a temporary restraining order to prohibit the government from implementing the law and strike down the entirety of Republic Act 11479 as unconstitutional.

CenterLaw is joined by Foundation for Media Alternatives, Democracy.Net.Ph, VERAFiles Inc. and Lyceum of the Philippines University College of Law in filing the petition.

This is the 27th constitutional challenge filed against the much feared law.

“By penalizing acts regardless of the stage of execution, the Anti-Terrorism Act criminalizes a whole range of actions beginning with expressions of thoughts, to association of persons, and to the very acts resulting in death, injury or damage, including ‘ordinary crimes’ under existing laws,” the group of petitioners said.

Penalizing possession of ‘objects’ or collecting ‘documents’ related to terrorism

Like previously filed petitions, the latest legal challenge attacked the vagueness and overbreadth of the law’s section defining terrorism. CenterLaw said that Sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12 of the law are “repugnant to the Constitution fr transgressing the fundamental rights.”

Section 6, which penalizes Planning, Training, Preparing and Facilitating the Commission of Terrorism, “infringes on the right to freedom of speech by making mere possession of objects and collecting or making of documents as acts of terrorism,” the petitioners pointed out.

For journalists and rights defenders and advocates, they may gather in materials that “in some way deal with terrorism,” in line with their work. Lawyers and law professors too will encounter such materials.

A person in possession of Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo or of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital may be punished under this section too, the petitioners said.

“The lack of definition as to what these objects and documents are under Section 6 makes it overly broad that it could include harmless literature or other documentary works which contain dissenting opinions, unpopular opinions, or minority opinions opposed to the opinions of the majority in society,” the plea read.

Duterte’s speech on NPA

The petitioners also urged the Court to take notice of President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent speech where he labelled the New Peoples Army as a terrorist organization because he “finally declared them to be one.”

RELATED: WATCH: Duterte tells communists 'you are terrorists because I declared you to be one'

This, CenterLaw said, “illustrates how the fatally-defective ATA can be recklessly misused to the damnation of the people and to the destruction of hallowed institutions that serve as our country’s safeguards against government abuses.”

The petitioners noted that the speech, on July 8, was not the first time that Duterte made a similar declaration. With the Anti-Terrorism Council composed of alter egos of the president, the speech may be deemed as “presidential policy binding.”

The ATC can authorize law enforcers to detain of a suspected terrorist of up to 24 days, without judicial charge.

“Considering  the many problematic provisions of the Anti-Terror Act, all that the President needs to do is to label all his political critics as supporters, sympathizers or members of the NPA, and they could be proscribed as such by the ATC, and prosecuted under any number of permutations or combinations of imagined offenses under the provisions of the fatally-defective law,” the petition read.

“Not too long ago, it was a death warrant to be included in the Order of Battle targeting leftist groups and human rights defenders; in the past four years, it was being part of a drug list, and; now, with the assailed ATA, being tagged as a supporter, sympathizer, aid or abettor of terrorists and terror groups,” the petitioners added.

CenterLaw serves as legal counsel of kin of drug war victims that assailed the police's Oplan Tokhang also before the SC. Nearly three years later, the petition remains pending.

In assailing the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, the petitioners stressed: “Law could, and very well, becomes a twisted tool of twisted politics, under the assailed piece of rushed legislation."

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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