A group of Filipino lawyers and a veteran lawmaker today separately filed before the Supreme Court petitions questioning the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday.
The lawyers’ group led by former Education Secretary Armin Luistro physically filed the petition after submitting it electronically on Saturday, a day after Duterte signed the bill into law. Luistro and the lawyers’ petition urges the Supreme Court to issue an immediate temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent the law from taking effect on July 15. It also describes several sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act as “being repugnant to the 1987 Philippine Constitution.”
Among the controversial measures they deemed unconstitutional is Section 9 and 10 of the law, which states that “any person, who without taking any direct part in the commission of terrorism, shall incite others to the execution of any of the [terrorist] acts…hereof by means of speeches, proclamation, writing, emblems, banners or representations to the same end shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of twelve (12) years.”
Section 10 meanwhile states that the same penalty will be imposed on anyone who “shall recruit another to participate in, join, commit or support terrorism or terrorist individual.” Any suspect could be declared a terrorist by an Anti-Terror Council which will be made up of officials handpicked by the president.
Meanwhile, Albay Congressman Edcel Lagman also filed a petition before the Supreme Court asking it to issue a similar TRO against the law for its supposedly unconstitutional provisions. According to Lagman’s petition, these provisions include allowing the detention of suspected terrorists without warrant or charges and giving the government the authority to conduct surveillance and wiretap a suspect for up to 90 days.
“The so-called safeguards in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 are mere motherhood declarations which are eroded by oppressive provisions and a killer proviso that negates any concession to advocacy and dissent,” Lagman said in a statement sent to reporters.
The congressman added that the arrest, prosecution, and conviction of terrorists, if warranted should be conducted “without ensnaring into contrived culpability persons who simply exercise free speech and peaceful assembly.”
Various human rights and lawyers’ groups have called the bill “dangerous” as it fails to give suspected terrorists the right to a constitutional hearing and due process. Like Lagman and Luistro’s group, critics of the Anti-Terror Law worry that a vague and broad definition of terrorism under said measure could lead to an abuse in power.
Over the weekend, 11 activists who were protesting against the Anti Terror Law were arrested by the police in Cabuyao, Laguna. Non-profit group Karapatan said the protesters, who are members of various activist groups, were detained at the Cabuyao Police Station without being told what they are being charged with.
The police are supposed to read the person their rights and inform them why they are being arrested.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, yesterday urged Filipinos to not be swayed by the campaign supposedly launched by critics against the Anti-Terror Law.
“We appeal to the public to give this law a chance and not to be swayed by misinformation and disinformation. We urge everyone to read and understand the law,” Lorenzana said in a statement.