SC asked to hold preliminary conference on anti-terror law pleas remotely
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.
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SC asked to hold preliminary conference on anti-terror law pleas remotely

Kristine Joy Patag ( - November 17, 2020 - 10:20am

MANILA, Philippines — Petitioners represented by the Free Legal Assistance Group urged the Supreme Court to conduct the preliminary conference on the anti-terrorism law case through videoconference, citing COVID-19 risks and the protocol enforced to curb the spread of the virus.

In an urgent omnibus motion filed Monday, FLAG said they are grateful for the SC's move to conduct preliminary conference on the case, but asked the high court to allow the remote participation of the parties in it.

“As to the conduct of the preliminary conference by videoconference, the petitioners submit that the said mode will best balance the need for the speedy resolution of the consolidated petitions with the current public health realities arising from the COVID-19 pandemic,” they said.

The SC will hold preliminary conference on the case on November 26, but it has yet to set a date for the oral arguments.

FLAG noted that the petitioners come from various areas in the Philippines, including from Visayas and Mindanao, and travel restrictions remain in place. It also pointed out that other than the 37 legal teams of each group of petitioners, the Office of the Solicitor General will also attend the preliminary conference.

“Taken together, travel to Manila appears to be impracticable and may pose a serious health risk to counsel and all attendees of the preliminary conference,” they said.

Common substantive issues raised

FLAG also proposed common issues among the 37 petiitions that the SC may deliberate through live questioning, on the oral arguments.

  • The overbreadth of the ATA
  • The void for vagueness of the ATA
  • The necessity for the issuance of a status quo ante order or similar preliminary injunction by the Court”

They said procedural issues meanwhile may be argued through a memoranda that specific group of petitioners will submit. “The resolution of issues that affect the viability only of some but not all of the petitions would therefore have no bearing on the ultimate question of whether the ATA should be nullified,” they added.

FLAG also said: “While there are thirty-seven petitions, only one of them needs to succeed for the ATA to be annulled...  Hence, and most respectfully, to conduct oral argument on issues particularly only to some of the petitions (such as procedural issues) would be to waste the valuable time of the Court.”

Petitioners have been pressing the SC to rule on their prayer for a status quo ante or temporary restraining order that would prohibit the government from implementing the controversial anti-terrorism law.

In separate motions, groups of petitioners have raised the promulgation of the Implementing Rules and Regulation of the law, budget allocation for the anti-terrorism program and the amplified red-tagging of military and government officials against members of progressive groups.

The SC is set to meet for an en banc session on Tuesday morning.

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