Lawyers vs anti-terrorism law press SC to intervene amid 'Bloody Sunday' raids
Women members of groups Anakpawis, Amihan, RUWA and other groups hold protest marking International Women's Day in Mendiola, Manila on March 8, 2021.

Lawyers vs anti-terrorism law press SC to intervene amid 'Bloody Sunday' raids

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - March 9, 2021 - 11:36am

MANILA, Philippines — Citing the “Bloody Sunday” police raids that led to nine activists dead, the country’s legal luminaries are again knocking on the doors of the Supreme Court to stop temporarily the implementation of the reviled Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

More than 60 legal counsels on anti-terrorism law pleas on Tuesday again pressed the SC to issue a temporary restraining order on the implementation of the ATA, as they believe the issuance of the TRO pending ruling on their 37 petitions “could help address the worsening situation.”

“We express concern over the rising number of deaths resulting from the enforcement of ‘search warrants’ issued by the courts on the ground that the subject ‘fought back,’ no different from the claim of ‘nanlaban’ over the deaths of drug suspects in anti-drug operations,” the lawyers said.

READ: DOJ-led task force on extrajudicial killings to investigate 'Bloody Sunday' raids

Among the signatories are the seven oralists for the petitioners led by former Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz, retired SC Justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita-Carpio Morales and former Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Nine people were killed and six were arrested in separate operations in Calabarzon, dawn of Sunday. It’s the same narrative with past operations, rights groups said. Police will secure search warrants from courts that have become “factories,” implement them in wee hours of the morning and arrest activists. In more alarming cases, activists were also killed.

The ATA lawyers raised the alarm on search warrants that may be issued under the anti-terrorism law, “which does not contain clear judicially determinable standards, giving enforcement agencies a general warrant to search and arrest ‘suspected persons.’”

Rights lawyers and progressive groups have also asked the SC to be more proactive amid “abuses of the law that are too glaring to ignore.”

READ: SC urged to be proactive, provide safeguards vs 'templated' warrants

Attacks on ATA petitioners

The lawyers also called on the high court to intervene in the continuing attacks against their fellow petitioners and lawyers.

“We call on the Supreme Court as the constitutionally-appointed guardian of civil liberties and protector of the legal profession to take immediate measures to stop these attacks including those committed against petitioners and counsel in the ATA petitioners,” the ATA counsels said in a joint statement.

This the latest statement from ATA petitioners came following the stabbing of their fellow counsel Angelo Karlo Guillen in Iloilo and the killing of nine activists in a “Bloody Sunday” police operation in Calabarzon provinces.

The ATA counsels noted that the case of Guillen is just the latest attacks levelled against them. Top military official Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade has threatened them and even a reporter covering the oral arguments. Free Legal Assistance Group member Raffy Aquino was also erroneously labelled by the military as a communist, while members of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers continue to be red-tagged. Rights lawyer Evalyn Ursua also suspects she is under surveillance.

These attacks come on top of the 54 killings of lawyers and thousands of extrajudicial killings since 2016, the lawyers said. “These attacks against lawyers must stop as they threaten the practice of the legal profession and the right of the people to judicial remedies,” they added.

The ATA counsels also called on their colleagues to “launch a more active response” to the attacks against them. “We call on the people to demand from the Government to stop the killings and the escalating violence and impunity that have seriously eroded the rule of law and our democratic order,” they added.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters that the inventory on cases involving attacks against lawyers “will be submitted soon.” Data will come from prosecution offices across the country, he added.

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