Lawyers, civic leaders file 1st petition vs anti-terror law

A group of lawyers and civic leaders on Saturday, July 4, filed the very first petition against the newly-signed anti-terror law before the Supreme Court.

The group led by law professor Howie Calleja submitted the petition via electronic filing on Saturday, and will physicially file it on Monday, July 6.

The group is joined by civic groups Tunay na Bayani and Bagong Siklab Pilipinas, as well as La Sallian brother and former education secretary Brother Armin Luistro. (READ: EXPLAINER: Comparing dangers in old law and anti-terror bill)

A full copy of the petition is yet to be released by the group, but excerpts show that the petition has requested the Supreme Court to issue an immediate temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent the law from taking effect in 15 days.

The law was signed on July 3, and will take into effect 15 days after complete publication.

"[We] respectfully pray that judgment be rendered by the Honorable Supreme Court issuing a Temporary Restraining Order, Writ of Preliminary Injunction and/or Other Injunctive Remedies to prevent the enforcement of the anti-terrorism act beginning july 19, 2020, the same having been published in the Official Gazette on July 3, 2020," the petitioners said.

The petitioners also asked the Supreme Court to "prohibit all respondents or any person, entity, member, officer, employee, representative or agent acting singly or collectively with them, from enforcing the above-mentioned sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act."

There will be more – at least 5 – petitions to come after Calleja's group, according to public announcements and sources.

'Repugnant to the Constitution'

The Calleja group's petition wants to declare as null and void Sections 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 16, 17, 25, 26, 29 and 54 of Republic Act No. 11479 or the anti-terror law.

Sections 3 and 4 deal with the definitions of terror. 

In the 2007 Human Security Act, terror acts are those that "sow and create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace."

Section 4 of the 2020 anti-terror law expanded that to say that terror acts are those that have the purpose of:

  • intimidating the general public
  • creating an atmosphere or spreading message of fear
  • provoking or infuencing by intimidation the government or any of its international organizations
  • seriously destabilizing or destroying the fundamental political, economic, or social structures of the country
  • creating a public emergency
  • seriously undermining public safety 

Sections 5, 9, and 10 punish threat to commit terrorism, inciting to commit terrorism and recruitment to a terrorist organization. These are also added crimes to the anti-terror law. The 2007 Human Security Act only punished conspiracy to commit terrorism.

Inciting to commit terrorism has been slammed as directly infringing on freedom of speech, opening the law to a facial challenge or a challenge without having to wait for a direct injury to happen.

Sections 16 and 17 involve surveillance, which has been prolonged and broadened in the anti-terror law. Under Section 16, "any person charged or suspected to be committing any of the crimes" can be surveilled.

Because the new law has added new crimes, there are more people who can be subjected to surveillance. 

The old law also provides for a 30-day limit from the court order to conduct the surveillance, while the new one would allow a maximum of 60 days.

Sections 25 and 26 involve proscription of people as terrorists, again one of the powers of Anti-Terror Council which must file an application with the Court of Appeals.

Under the law (Section 27), preliminary proscription can be done without hearing within 72 hours.

Section 29 – the most controversial – authorizes the Anti-Terror Council to order arrests without a warrant, and detentions that can last up to 24 days before suspects are brought to court.

This is widely seen as unconstitutional for usurping judicial power.

Section 54 says that the Anti-Terror Council and the DOJ "with active participation of police and military institutions" are the ones which must promulgate the Implementing Rules and Regulations within 90 days of effectivity of the new law. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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