(July 6, 2020) – Two groups of lawyers on Monday challenged before the Supreme Court the anti-terrorism law which President Rodrigo Duterte
signed last week, arguing it was unconstitutional.
Lawyers and civil leaders, led by Howard Calleja and former education secretary Bro. Armin Luistro, said the newly enacted law has provisions that are “repugnant and perilous” to Filipinos’ constitutional rights.
“There is an urgent and paramount necessity to prevent furhter damage as the effectivity and implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Act will materially and substantially prejudice basic constitutional rights,” their petition reads, “and may result in the permanent contraction of civil and political liberties.”
Provisions allowing for the warrantless arrest and giving more power to state forces to wiretap suspected terrorists, as well as the creation of an unelected anti-terrorism council are some which had raised the eyebrow of many ranging from lawyers’ groups to religious organizations.
Another group of lawyers led by Mel Sta. Maria, who heads the Far Eastern University’s Institute of Law along with other law professors, were the second to seek a temporary restraining order before the high court.
“The implementation of the Act, because of its patent nullity, will be a waste of financial resources especially during these trying times when the country is facing the COVID-19 pandemic,” they said.
The law professors questioned in particular Section 4 of the law, whose broad definition “allows it to cover traditionally recognized and protected forms of expression against government shortcomings and excesses.”
Sta. Maria and the others also said that the law would only attempt to legitimize warrantless arrests “on the basis of mere suspicion.”
The anti-terror law allows security forces to detain suspected terrorists for a maximum of 14 days which could be extended to another 10 more.
Top government spokesman Harry Roque Jr. had said over the weekend that they will leave it for the high court to decide on the legality of the law or striking it down.
The law’s main author, Senator Panfilo Lacson, had repeatedly hit back at critics. Duterte’s security officials had also appealed to give the law a chance.
His signing of the bill came days after the United Nations through High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, urged the Philippine leader to reconsider enacting the measure.
She had called for better safeguards against abuse from state forces, a concern shared by those who oppose the law. (Christian de Lano Deiparine/MM)
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