FLAG urges SC: Shield people from 'terror' of anti-terror law, issue TRO
Rights lawyers Chel Diokno and Erin Tañada, and Rep. Kit Belmonte (Quezon City) filed the 12th legal challenge against Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 on Thursday, July 23.
JUCRA pool photo

FLAG urges SC: Shield people from 'terror' of anti-terror law, issue TRO

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - October 29, 2020 - 2:36pm

MANILA, Philippines — Petitioners represented by the Free Legal Assistance Group urged the Supreme Court to wield the power only it has to step between the people and terror brought by the much feared Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

In a 12-page motion filed Thursday, FLAG pressed the SC to immediately resolve its application for a temporary restraining order against the Republic Act 11479 and restrain the government from enforcing law’s Implementing Rules and Regulation.

"Allowing the enforcement of the ATA through the IRR can only lead to the actual and pervasive curtailment by the state of the constitutional right to free speech and expression," they said.

"Only the injunctive power of the Honorable Court stands between the people and the imminent terror heralded by the ATA and its IRR. Petitioners pray the Court to wield the power," the petitioners added.

FLAG represents opposition lawmakers, Framers of the Constitution, human rights lawyers and journalists in their petition against the anti-terrorism law.

READ: Opposition lawmakers, rights lawyers, journalists file 12th petition vs anti-terrorism law

They stressed that the restraint in the implementation of the unconstitutional anti-terrorism law is “doubly urgent” as it is being assailed for infringing on free speech and expression.

"The Honorable Court has repeatedly held that a law that restricts speech on the basis of content is, in fact, presumed to be unconstitutional, and such presumption warrants the Supreme Court’s immediate issuance of a TRO to preserve sacrosanct constitutional rights," the petitioners added.

IRR 'fatally flawed'

FLAG said that the recently issued IRR of the law is as “fatally flawed” as the law itself.

The law already faces 37 legal challenges before the SC.

They said that the IRR usurped powers reserved to the legislative due to its insertions that are not part of the law’s text, such as qualifying the crime of “incitement to terrorism” as “done under circumstances that show reasonable probably of success in inciting the commission of terrorism,’ but has no basis in the law.

While the IRR provided a procedure for delisting of suspected terrorists, the grounds for the appeal such as showing that the basis for designation no longer exists "presume that the basis of designation is correct from the very beginning."

"There is no way to allege otherwise," they added.

DOJ Undersecretary Adrian Sugay, designated spokesperson of the Anti-Terrorism Council, also said they have yet to lay down the process of delisting.

READ: 'Mother of red-tagging': No process yet to remove names from terror list

"In the guise of providing for mere enforcement guidelines, the IRR extends and amplifies the constitutional violations inherent in the ATA. An unconstitutional law may not be enforced, and neither may it be cured by equally unconstitutional rules adopted by an overeager, overstepping executive," the petitioners said.

“For these reasons, and insofar as the adoption of the IRR heralds the imminent enforcement of the ATA even as the grave free-speech objections to the ATA remain unresolved, the operationalization of the IRR itself must forthwith be restrained,” FLAG added.

At least two more groups of petitioners prodded the SC this week to resolve their application for injunctive relief against the implementation of the anti-terrorism law.

The SC however is on a writing break until November 3. Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said last week that magistrates may agree on the date for the oral arguments on the petitions by mid-November.

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