Fear of abuse of anti-terror law persists

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines on Monday appealed to the Supreme Court to immediately resolve the issues raised by the 37 petitioners seeking to declare Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 as unconstitutional after the government approved its implementing rules and regulations.

"We hope and pray that the pending petitions before the Honorable Supreme Court will be resolved on the merits for the proper guidance of all," IBP President Domingo Egon Cayosa said in a statement.

While he welcomed the efforts of the Department of Justice to address the controversial issues against the ATA through the IRR, the IBP official stressed that the implementing rules "cannot rise above the provisions of the law that it seeks to clarify."

"The IRR may therefore be hounded by the same questions surrounding RA 11479 itself," Cayosa said.

At the same time, a spokesman for the Anti-Terrorism Council said protesting against government and other civil and political exercises were not acts of terrorism.

DOJ Undersecretary and spokesman Adrian Sugay told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo “Protesting against government and legitimate complaints are okay, there's no problem with that because you are within the exercise of your constitutional and civil and political rights. It's not terrorism.”

Sugay said government was following a process in designating groups or individuals as terrorist, which requires probable cause.

But former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, in a separate ABS-CBN's Teleradyo interview, said government had "prejudged dissenters...That intolerance of dissent is more than sufficient to overturn their probable cause...”

Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said the IRR of the Anti-Terrorism Act provides two provisions that seek to temper the impact of the law on the rights of the people, "but the broad definitions remain, giving authorities the leeway to enforce its might."

“I pray the Supreme Court already hears the many petitions that question the constitutionality and practicality of implementing the law. We are in the middle of a pandemic and the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise,” Pangilinan said.

“The government is committing a lot of mistakes and missteps. It should push to serve our countrymen. Criticism is important, and it may be called terrorism under the law,” he added.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarrra, a member of the Anti-Terrorism Council, announced last week that the council had approved the IRR, three months after ATA took effect.

The DOJ said the IRR sought to clarify the provisions of the law and to explain "what a citizen must do -- or must not do -- to comply with the law."

The IRR contains "very detailed provisions on terrorism and terrorism-related crimes, on surveillance, on designation of terrorist individuals and organizations, on proscription, on the examination of bank accounts, among others," the DOJ said.

There are at least 37 petitions questioning the constitutionality of the anti-terror law before the Supreme Court.

"The Anti-Terrorism Law covers not only terrorism which we all denounce, but also impinges on constitutionally guaranteed rights and settled principles of law and governance," Cayosa said.

"The law affects all of us and even the next generation of Filipinos beyond the term of the current Congress and Administration. It is best that the contentious and controversial issues regarding the law be resolved in a timely manner," he added.

The SC earlier said it would hold oral arguments on the petitions, which Solicitor General Jose Calida sought to be cancelled due to COVID-19 health risks and logistical issues.

The high court has yet to resolve Calida’s motion for cancellation of the oral arguments.

Topics: Integrated Bar of the Philippines , Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 , Supreme Court , Rodrigo Duterte , Jose Calida
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