THE Anti-Terror Law or Republic Act 11479 has loopholes and plenty of its provisions aren’t clear, according to the dean of the Far Eastern University Institute of Law.
Dean Melencion Sta. Maria Jr. made the point Thursday in a webinar that tackled “Mass Media and the Law,” adding: “The only certain thing in the controversial law was the use of the word ‘suspicion.’”
The Anti-Terror law was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last July 3 and became effective on July 18.
“Ang iba malabo, pero there is one very clear usage of a word -- suspicion. Doon hindi tayo nagtatanong, sa akin malinaw na malinaw iyon,” said Sta. Maria.
“Is the government weaponizing the law against the media?” he asked during the webinar presented by the Philippine Bar Association (PBA).
According to Sta. Maria, it was an obvious intention to use the word “suspicion” in the law since it was mentioned several times.
“Suspected of committing crime has been repeated not once, not twice, not thrice but eight times in the law. Kung sunod-sunod na ginamit ‘yung phrase na ‘yun, alam natin hindi aksidente ‘yun. Sinadya ‘yun,” explained the FEU dean.
He also decried the provision in Section 29 of RA 11479 in which any military or police personnel can put under custody people suspected of committing violation of Section 4 up to Section 12 of the same law.
Sta. Maria likewise said there is no clear interpretation of the word “suspected” under Section 3, where the definition of terms is stated.
Under the law, the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) will be the one to decide who are considered as terrorists, he added.
Meanwhile, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo stressed it is not stated in Section 29 that police power is given by ATC to effect any arrest.
“They’ve been misreading this Section 29... (Under Section 16 at 17) If a police officer or military person suspects someone to be involved in terrorism, what they will do is to ask permission to ATC to file an action with the Court of Appeals,” said Panelo, who was also present in the same webinar.
During the webinar, the libel case against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and the denial of a new franchise to ABS-CBN were likewise discussed.
Others who attended the discussion were Lyceum of the Philippines College of Law Dean Ma. Soledad Margarita Deriquito-Mawis, LPU professor Atty. Carlo Cruz, and PBA Vice-President Rico Domingo.
The PBA partnered with the Harvard Law School Alumni Association of the Philippines and LPU College of Law for the webinar project.