Anti-terrorism law debates to resume on April 27, via SC's first virtual oral arguments
This photo release on February 2 shows the set up for the oral arguments on the anti-terrorism law petitions, conducted following safety protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supreme Court Public Information Office/Released

Anti-terrorism law debates to resume on April 27, via SC's first virtual oral arguments

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - April 21, 2021 - 7:50pm

MANILA, Philippines — Oral arguments on the 37 petitions challenging the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 will resume on April 27 — in what would be the Supreme Court’s first virtual debates in history — after eight weeks of suspension due to COVID-19 threat and lockdowns.

This was following an earlier advisory from the Supreme Court that the debates will resume two weeks after the lifting of the enhanced community quarantine status imposed on Metro Manila.

In an en banc advisory on Wednesday, the Supreme Court said: “Given the current public health situation, the remainder of the oral arguments shall be conducted through videoconferencing.”

But the SC explained that “this arrangement shall be pro hac vice (for this occasion only) vis-à-vis these consolidated cases.” The high court stressed that personal appearance before the en banc remains the primary mode of oral arguments.

The SC Public Information Office shall post an audio stream of the proceedings on Youtube.

National security adviser may join

In the resumption of the oral arguments — the fifth session — Solicitor General Jose Calida is expected to deliver government’s opening statement and defense of the anti-terrorism law.

The SC said National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon may be allowed to join the Zoom platform for the debates.

“He shall be covered by the same regulations as counsels. During the interpellation of the respondent, questions may be fielded to him through the Solicitor General,” it added.

READ: Cheat sheet: Petitioners argue for the nullification of anti-terrorism law

Proper decorum

The tribunal said the justices, court personnel, counsels, amici curiae—or “friends of court” expected to deliver a statement—will attend the debates via Zoom. They will not be allowed to record the proceedings. Doing so may result in direct contempt from the court and be dealt with summarily, the SC added.

Access to the video platform shall be given to three lawyers per petition and seven lawyers for the Office of the Solicitor General.

The high court also warned that counsels cannot send private messages to each other, to a member of the court staff or any justice using the Zoom platform provided by the court.

It added that “the conduct of videoconferencing shall resemble oral arguments in the session hall, with remote locations viewed as extensions of the session hall. The dignity and solemnity required in the session hall, as well as the rules and practices on proper court decorum, shall be strictly observed.”

Participants are told to wear proper attire and have simple black or white backgrounds. Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, who will supervise and control the proceedings, may order any counsel who fail to follow the requirements to comply or be removed from the platform.

“The law on perjury and the rules on contempt continue to apply,” the high court also said.


The oral arguments on the petitions against the highly contentious anti-terrorism law have been suffering delays due to COVID-19 threat. Earlier sessions were suspended as justices needed to go on self-quarantine, while the enforcement of the ECQ as infections surge forced courts to be physically closed.

In the third oral arguments session on Feb 16, petitioners made a fresh plea for the issuance of a temporary restraining order against the law’s implementation. This was formalized in a motion filed by more than 20 petitioners on February 23.

The SC had earlier said it will wait for Solicitor General Calida’s comment on the motions praying for a TRO before it resolves them.

Court documents, however, showed that Calida had asked the SC at least twice to extend the deadline for the government’s answer on the petitioners’ motions. His latest plea for extension seeks to push the deadline to April 23.

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