Lawyers: Terrorist designation gives petitioner legal standing to question ATA

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Lawyers: Terrorist designation gives petitioner legal standing to question ATA
Rights alliance Karapatan said the police has blocked various groups from marching towards the Supreme Court on Tuesday, February 2, hours before the tribunal holds oral arguments on the 37 petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Karapatan, Twitter handout

MANILA, Philippines — The Anti-Terrorism Council’s designation of peace consultant Rey Claro Casmabre as a terrorist has strengthened parties’ case against the Anti-Terrorism Act at the Supreme Court, lawyers said, noting that it has given him the legal standing that government lawyers say petitioners lack.

In a resolution on Thursday, the ATC designated Casambre and 18 other alleged “Central Committee members” of the Communist Party of the Philippines as terrorists.

But the Public Interest Law Center, who represented Casambre in a separate case, pointed out that the government’s move only boosted petitioners’ case against the ATA.

Asserting that the Anti-Terrorism Council’s move is baseless and dangerous, the PILC said: "The ATC regurgitating false assertions has been a most dangerous weapon especially in the heat of oral arguments on the terror law. With Casambre designated and ‘injured’ by the ATC, the terror law petitions now have a surer footing in court with his established legal standing to file suit."

The Office of the Solicitor General, which is defending the ATA and the government, argued that the legal challenges against the law should be junked due to the petitioners’ lack of direct injury sustained from the law.

In his opening statement, Solicitor General Jose Calida said that while petitioners invoke diverse capacities, these did not establish their legal standing as they do not “suffer any direct or indirect injury that will vest them with locus standi.”

He also argued that the petitioners’ supposed failure to comply with the doctrine of hierarchy of courts may case the dismissal of the petition.

Petitioners have lodged a facial challenge—that it is unconstitutional on its face—against the law, citing its chilling effect on the people’s rights.

'Rehashed' list

The PILC — whose clients also include peace consultants Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad and Adelberto Silva — also said ATC’s list was rehashed from 2018, and some of the designated 19 personalities have already disclaimed to the court ties to terrorist organizations or activities.

The four peace consultants and 15 others are accused of “planning, preparing, facilitation, conspiring, and inciting the commission of terrorism and recruitment to and membership in a terrorist organization or a group organized for the purpose of engaging in terrorism.” The resolution however did not cite basis for the allegation.

PILC pointed out that Baylosis, Casambre, Ladlad and Silva submitted documents and proved to a Manila trial court that they were not connected to the Central Committee of the Communist Party or the New People’s Army.  

“Not only had they shown long track records in the legal democratic movement, the court aptly dropped their names from the proscription petition under the Human Security Act because there was no evidence linking them to terrorist organizations or activities,” they said.

Baylosis: Designation is 'blatantly arbitrary'

In a separate statement, Baylosis said the ATC resolution is “blatantly arbitrary” and disregards proceedings in the Manila Regional Trial Court that held that he was not one of the "terrorists" named in the Department of Justice’s proscription suit against the CPP-NPA.

“I was freed from detention in early 2019 based on two Quezon City RTCs final ruling on false, fabricated non-bailable charges of illegal possession of firearm and explosive which were evidently planted on me. I continue and faithfully attend my remaining court trial until lately in a Manila RTC court hearing,” he added.

The PILC added:  “The ATC’s move to implement a law void and unconstitutional is self-destructive; in the end, the unavailability of remedies, the grave violations of due process and the ambiguity of the law will be brought to fore.”

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