As debates extend, petitioners again press SC to halt implementation of anti-terror law

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
As debates extend, petitioners again press SC to halt implementation of anti-terror law
Anti-riot policemen block protesters wearing face masks and face shield against Covid-19, during a protest outside the supreme court in Manila on February 2, 2021, as the tribunal prepares to hear a case asking the court to declare the law as unconstitutional.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — As the oral arguments on the pleas against the Anti-Terrorism Act stretch to a fourth session, petitioners have again pressed the Supreme Court to temporarily halt the implementation of the law citing supervening events such as prosecution threats from the military and arrest of one petitioner.

Before Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta officially suspended the session on Tuesday, Rep. Edcal Lagman (Albay), who is one of the oralists for the petitioners, made a manifestation. “Your honors, for the first time in history, petitioners and their counsels before this honorable court are seriously threatened with prosecution under the challenged statute by no less than a military who is part of the State enforcing the ATA,” Lagman told the court.

The opposition lawmaker did not mention who he was referring to, but retired SC Justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio-Morales had previously brought to the SC’s attention the posts of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.

Parlade, also spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, had posted on his Facebook that "very soon, blood debts will be settled" addressing petitioners, and that "the long arm of the law will catch up on you and your supporters."

He also hinted at filing anti-terrorism violation raps against Inquirer.net Tetch Torres-Tupas for her report that the military general disputes. Parlade later denied he is threatening prosecution.

Lagman also said Alcadev teacher and anti-terrorism law petitioner Chad Booc is currently detained in Cebu, after police raided the University of San Carlos and claimed they were conducting a “rescue operation” of Lumad children—the school had said there was no need for any rescue.

“All of these would underscore the chilling effect of the ATA, which cows citizens into silence and are restrained or precluded from exercising their freedom of expression,” Lagman added.

The petitioner again reiterated their prayer to issue injunctive reliefs such as a temporary restraining order in the case.

Solgen to comment

In separate and earlier filed 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, however, earlier listed whether a TRO or Status Quo Ante Order should be issued as one of the issues to be tackled in the oral arguments. The court had said it will defer action on petitioners' prayer for injunctive relief until the end of the debates.

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta noted that Lagman is not making a mere manifestation, but reiterating their prayer for the issuance of a halt order.

“There's a pending motion you filed before but we did not act on that, that means that we denied it because there was no resolution, but you are alleging other matters now,” Peralta said.

It is, however, unclear whether Peralta meant that the petitioners’ prayer of TRO is already dismissed, or the motions that were subsequently filed reiterating this prayer.

The chief justice directed Lagman to put this in writing and indicate the reasons for their prayer. A copy will also be given to the Office of the Solicitor General so the government’s lawyers may comment on it.

Solicitor General Jose Calida, however, asked the SC whether they can be given sufficient time to file their answer as the incident Lagman cited happened in Cebu.

Peralta said the OSG would have ten days to answer Lagman’s pleading.

The SC will resume its oral arguments, still on interpellation of the petitioners, on February 23.

Meanwhile, recaps of the first three days of oral arguments may be read here, here and here.

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