Groups ask SC to nullify anti-terrorism law for impeding humanitarian work
Center for Environmental Concerns - Philippines is one of the petitioners against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Center for Environmental Concerns - Philippines / Twitter, release
Groups ask SC to nullify anti-terrorism law for impeding humanitarian work
Kristine Joy Patag ( - September 18, 2020 - 12:07pm

MANILA, Philippines — Eleven groups of development and humanitarian workers on Friday asked the Supreme Court to nullify the anti-terrorism law for impeding humanitarian and environmental protection work.

The Coordinating Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) Inc. and its member-organizations asked the SC to strike down the entire Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 “for being contrary to the Constitution.”

“The implementation of RA 11479 will surely worsen the present human rights situation and so petitioners have no other recourse but to put their trust on the Supreme Court as the faithful guardian of the fundamental law,” the petitioners said.

The groups told the court: “The CPDG and its co-petitioners believe that the Anti- Terrorism Act will seriously hinder its members from continuing their development work for it will legitimize all the harassments many of its members are experiencing now including red-tagging, abduction as well as incarceration on trumped-up charges, and even extra-judicial killings (EJK)."

READ: Cheat sheet on the looming legal battle on the anti-terrorism law

Impeding humanitarian work

CPDG argued that the anti-terrorism law impedes the conduct of development and humanitarian work.

The petitioners raised that the “government’s failure to address poverty and the inaccessibility of social services” especially to people who are in the countryside paved the way for NGOs like them provide alternative livelihood programs for them—but their work “earned the ire of the government,” they added.

“Rather than encouraging support and allowing these projects and programs to flourish, the government forces have maliciously equated these projects as means to support their so-called 'terrorists’ organizations' and maliciously suspecting these voluntary humanitarian effort as material support and aid to communist insurgency,” they added.

The petitioners stressed that community workers were put under surveillance, threatened and harassed by government workers through trumped up complaints filed against them. The passage of the law will only legitimize these, they said.

“The aid, projects, programs and infrastructure development in the communities that they are capable to deliver to benefit the people can be branded as ‘support for terrorist activities’. In fact, in line with its counter-insurgency campaign, the government has already impeded the flow of development projects by these NGOs,” their petition read.

Even work of environmentalists will be put at risk of being red-tagged. They stressed that environmental workers go to far-reaching communities to give aid and lectures, on impacts of environmental degradation. They also cited the killing of Leonard Co, a botanist and plat taxonomist, who was killed because he was mistaken to be a member of the New People’s Army while doing his research.

“The environmental work extended by the petitioners and similar organizations will be taken against them under Section 12 and 13of  R.A. 11479 for it will be branded as support for the so-called “communist-terrorist activities,” the petition read.

The petitioners are composed of development and humanitarian workers, environmentalists, farm workers, agriculturists, scientists, consumers and children’s rights advocates.

On the SC’s official list of petitions against the ATA, this would be the 33rd; two more petitions filed by groups from Mindanao through registered mail have yet to be received by the court.

The SC last month said the petitions are set for oral arguments, but date has yet to be determined.

READ: Petitioners tell SC, OSG: Canceling oral arguments on anti-terrorism law 'disservice' to public interest

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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