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'Time is of the essence:' 23 petitioners urge SC to stop implementation of anti-terrorism law
Protesters gather at University Avenue in Up Diliman in Quezon City as they picket in time for President Rodrigo Dutertes 5th State of the Nation last July 27, 2020.
The STAR/Michael Varcas

'Time is of the essence:' 23 petitioners urge SC to stop implementation of anti-terrorism law

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - November 26, 2020 - 4:27pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:07 p.m.) — With charges filed and military surveillance carried out under a law assailed in court by 37 groups, 23 of the petitioners against it urged the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

A majority of petitioners on Thursday filed a Joint Motion for the issuance of a temporary restraining order or status quo ante order to restrain the government from implementing the anti-terrorism law.

The issuance of a TRO or SQAO is one of the issues that will be taken up in oral arguments scheduled on January 19. The petitioners said they are seeking the issuance of the TRO or SQAO “without prejudice to its being taken up as one of the issues in the scheduled oral arguments.”

In a separate statement, the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers said the groups reached a consensus during a digital caucus and consultation facilitated by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, also a petitioner in the case.

“Indeed, as in cases of such transcendental importance and indubitable exigency, especially as it involves an epic conflict between overreaching State power vis-a-vis sacred individual and collective rights and freedoms, time is of the essence,” the NUPL added.

NUPL president Edre Olalia said other petitioners have also signified their intent to join the motion.

The SC on Thursday afternoon held a preliminary conference on the anti-terrorism petitions, almost five months since the first petition against the law—submitted barely 24 hours after President Rodrigo Duterte signed the law—was filed in early July.

Since the filing of their respective pleas and the subsequent release of the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations, the petitioners have been pressing the SC to issue an order to temporarily stop the implementation of the law.

RELATED: FLAG urges SC: Shield people from 'terror' of anti-terror law, issue TRO | Carpio, Carpio-Morales prod SC: Filipinos 'chilled to silence' by fear of anti-terrorism law

Prosecution, surveillance under a highly assailed law

In a manifestation filed last week, activist group Bayan (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan), represented by the NUPL, informed the SC of the first publicly known case that involves a direct injury under the assailed law.

Two Aetas from Zambales province, identified as Jasper Gurung and Junior Ramos, are detained and have been charged for violation of Section 4 of the Republic Act 11479. The said section defines terrorism and is being assailed before the SC for being vague and overbroad.

NUPL national president Edre Olalia said then that information gathered by their lawyers suggests the charges were "a way of reprisal against unarmed civilians (indigenous people) for a death of a soldier in an alleged encounter with the [New People's Army] in the area."

The petitioners also said there is another reported case involving farmers on Negros Island.

RELATED: Petitioners tell SC: Freezing of missionary group's assets a prelude to terrorism cases

In this fresh pleading, they stressed that the cases only involve incidents of criminal prosecution. “They do not include acts like surveillance and ex parte examination of bank accounts of some petitioners,” they added.

“In fact, the Armed Forces of the Philippines publicly admitted that it placed under surveillance some of the petitioners and lawyers in these consolidated cases,” they also said.

READ: 'I won't stop': Parlade red-tags Colmenares anew | Makabayan bloc party-lists under surveillance, Parlade says

The petitioners stressed that the filing of criminal charges under the assailed law and the military surveillance are being conducted while the constitutionality of the law is being questioned at the high court.

“Under the circumstances, and in view as well of certain strong objections to the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations as already raised by some petitioners, we collectively submit that it is imperative, and thus implore, that the Honorable Court meanwhile issue the injunction relief prayed for,” they said.

“We humbly submit that there is compelling necessity and urgency to prevent, running up to almost two months before the oral arguments, any further implementation of the provisions of the assailed law as they impact on the lives, liberties and security of the petitioners and the public at large,” they added.

ANTI-TERRORISM LAW INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES NATIONAL UNION OF PEOPLES LAWYERS SUPREME COURT
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