Tension as new petitioners vs anti-terrorism law barred from holding short picket
Women petitioners hold a copy of their pleading filed to challenge the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
JUCRA pool photo
Tension as new petitioners vs anti-terrorism law barred from holding short picket
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - September 21, 2020 - 3:58pm

MANILA, Philippines — Anti-terrorism law petitioners have been holding short pickets outside the gates of the Supreme Court after filing their pleadings, but on Monday, protesters supporting the latest group of petitioners were barred from doing so after Manila police enforced strict physical distancing protocols.

They were later allowed to hold a short program.

A day after the crowds gathered at the controversial “white sand beach” at the Manila Baywalk, metro police dispersed protesters that went to the SC to support the petitioners against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

Lawyer Virginia Suarez, legal counsel of the 27 women petitioners against the law, said the rally was held in support of their filing but “their tarpaulins were taken and were forced to leave.”

Women marchers sent off the petitioners — who stayed until the filing was done — to the SC, according to theier statement.

Suarez — who was also lawyer of slain transgender woman Jennifer Laude, whose killer has been deported and pardoned after six years in prison — also asserted that the protesters were practicing physical distancing, but “the police confiscated the tarp at pinapaalis kaya nagkagulo. But it ended well naman."

Some of the groups that filed legal challenges against the anti-terrorism law have been trooping to the SC to hold a short picket after the submission. The law was signed, and the subsequent filing of petitions before the SC were done, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Police Lt. Col. Alex Daniel, new police commander for Ermita in Manila, said in Filipino that the petitioners “all of a sudden held a rally. They were close to each other. There was violation of social distancing.”

He also said some of them were not wearing face shields.

This prompted police action to separate them. Daniel insisted that holding of rallies is prohibited by a government directive since the start of the lockdown. Lawyers have questioned the legal basis for this prohibition.

Daniel replaced Lt. Col. Ariel Caramoan, who was relieved over the crowing at the Manila Baywalk on Sunday.

"Actually we have long been strict. Only sometimes, like in the Baywalk, it was sudden and action was delayed due to the surge of people but all groupings here in Manila are acted upon by the police," Daniel also said in Filipino.

People had been flocking to the portion of the Manila Baywalk covered with crushed dolomite since Saturday, when it was opened to the public until the early evening.

Although there were efforts to limit the people inside the beach area — only 70 people were allowed in at a time and only for three minutes — photos taken of the area outside what some have started calling the "Manila Bay Sands" showed people crowding and not practicing physical distancing.

After a dialogue with the groups, the Manila cops allowed the petitioners to hold a short picket.

Two more petitions filed

Suarez represents 27 women petitioners composed of 11 women organizations and 16 individual women from different sectors who assailed the constitutionality of the anti-terrorism law in a Petition for Certiorari filed on Monday.

Among the petitioners are Martial Law survivor Aida Santos, journalist Kara Alikpala and writer Lualhati Bautista.

RELATED: On Marcos' birth anniversary, anti-torture advocates ask SC to nullify law 'reminiscent' of dictatorship

"The law is an act of State overreach at the expense of fundamental rights. It has the effect of nullifying what should be protected according to the Constitution like free speech, due speech, presumption of innocence, right too assembly, right against unreasonable searches and warrantless arrests, and right to bail among others," they said in a statement.

Earlier in Monday,  four humanitarian and faith-based groups also filed a petition for certiorari saying the law “will hinder the fruition of the State policy to enhance the participation of non-government organizations... in national development processes and nation-building.”

The Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc., Caucus of Development NGOs Inc., Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-Caritas Filipinas Foundation and Disaster Risk Reduction Network-Philippines asked the SC to declare several provisions of the law as unconstitutional.

RELATED: Groups ask SC to nullify anti-terrorism law for impeding humanitarian work

These are the 34th and 35th petitions lodged in the SC’s dockets, with two more filed through registered mail yet to be received by the court.

Justices had set the anti-terrorism law petitions for oral arguments but a date has yet to be determined as groups continue to file their legal challenges before the court. — with report from News5/Marlene Alcaide

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