With two detained for anti-terror charge, petitioners press SC to stop implementation of law
This undated photo shows protesters assailing the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
The STAR/Boy Santos, file

With two detained for anti-terror charge, petitioners press SC to stop implementation of law

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - November 18, 2020 - 5:33pm

MANILA, Philippines — With two people now detained over the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, activist group Bayan and more than 40 others on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court to nullify the law and stop the government from implementing it.

In a Compliance and Manifestation electronically filed on Wednesday, BAYAN, through the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, informed the SC of the first publicly known case that involves a direct injury on the assailed law. They again reiterated their plea to the SC to issue a temporary halt order against the implementation of the law as it has "all become even more urgent and imperative."

The NUPL’s manifestation cited the case against Jasper Gurung and Junior Ramos who are facing violation of Section 4 of the Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 before the Olongapo court. The said section defines terrorism and is being assailed before the SC for being vague and overbroad.

The case against Gurung and Ramos stemmed from an incident happened on August 21, weeks before the Department of Justice issued its Implementing Rules and Regulation, in San Marcelino, Zambales. Five people, including two minors, were evacuating due to “intense military operations and continued bombings in their ancestral land” when they were accosted by Philippine Army members, the NUPL said.

The petitioners claimed the army planted on them firearms and explosives and falsely accused them of being members of the New Peoples’ Army.

The SC has only so far set preliminary conference on the 37 pending legal challenges against the law on November 26, which would be almost five months since the first petition was filed.

The court has also yet to resolve the petitioners’ prayer for immediate relief such as the issuance of a status quo ante or temporary restraining order to prohibit the government from implementing the law.

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

Two arrested, arraigned on non-bailable charge

Two of those arrested, Gurung and Ramos, are now facing charges before the Olongapo court. NUPL president Edre Olalia said they are currently detained as they are facing non-bailable charge.

The Information or charge sheet penned by Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Ritchi John Distor Bolañi said that the two accused were “conspiring, confederating and cooperating with each other” and engaged in acts “intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to any person or endangers a [person’s] life, by firing and shooting at members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

It added that the two accused fatally wounded and caused the death of Sgt. Rudil Dilao, “thereby causing intimidation to the general public , spreading a message of fear and seriously undermining public safety, to damahe and prejudice the heirs of [Dilao].”

Olalia said the Gurung and Ramos, represented by NUPL-Central Luzon, are set to attend a pre-trial hearing on Thursday. “The available facts and circumstances we received so far from our colleagues in NUPL-CL indicate that the charges were a way of reprisal against unarmed civilians (indigenous people) for a death of a soldier in an alleged encounter with the NPAs in the area,” he said.

“So it proves that almost anything can be contorted to fit the broad and vague definition of terrorism under the ATA,” Olalia added.

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

Continuous red-tagging

Bayan, through NUPL, also said threats of impending prosecution, proscription and surveillance heightened since they last filed their manifestation urging the SC to issue a preliminary injunction to stop the government from enforcing the law.

They cited media interviews of Lt. Gen Antonio Parlade, spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), who said former lawmaker Neri Colmenares, also a petitioner, and members of the Makabayan bloc at the House are under surveillance.

“Asked again what evidence they have against Atty. Colmenares, Parlade failed to cite any proof and just continued to engage in unsubstantiated and groundless red-tagging,” they said.

READ: 'I won't stop': Parlade red-tags Colmenares anew

The red-tagging also continued during a Senate hearing held on November 3 with NTF-ELCAC officers and members serving as resource speakers. Personalities and groups initiating relief operations for those affected by the typhoon were also accused of being members of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“These baseless, blatant, and damaging villfication and red-tagging by those who are key components of the Anti-Terrorism Council have escalated the petitioners’ well-founded fear that RA 11479 and its unbridled power of designation will be used arbitrarily, without recognition of the principles of due process, presumption of innocence and basic rules of evidence,” the petitioners said.

“In view of these incidents, petitioners reiterate their prayers for injunctive reliefs and the nullification of the Anti-Terrorism Act as well as its Implementing Rules and Regulations,” they added.

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