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Ball in SC’s court

Francis Wakefield



Since critics of the Anti-Terror Act have challenged the law, the ATA is now sub judice and it is now up to the Supreme Court to rule on its legality, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Roque made the remark when asked to comment on the criticisms hurled against the President for signing the bill which, according to some, can be much worse than martial law.

Under judiciary rules, when a legal matter or controversy has come under the jurisdiction of a court, nobody, including media should interfere, by publication or public clamor, with the court’s proper handling of the proceeding.

In a text message to the Daily Tribune, Roque said the matter became “sub judice” after a lawyers’ group and the De La Salle brothers led by former Department of Education secretary Brother Armin Luistro along with civic groups filed an electronic petition for a temporary restraining order against the ATA.

“(It is) now with (the) SC, let the Court decide,” Roque said.

The petition against ATA is not expected to be tackled by the High Court on Tuesday, 7 July. A raffle will be conducted on Monday to determine who among the justices will be in-charge of the case.

As a matter of procedure, the justice in-charge will recommend to the full court the result of his or her study for deliberation and eventual action by the SC as a full court.

“Considering the short period from the raffle on 6 July to the full court session on 7 July, the justice in-charge may not have sufficient time to prepare a recommendation,” a source said.

“And the other justices, aside from the justice in-charge, would have to make their own study of the issues involved in the petition and may ask for more time before deliberation,” the source indicated. “We will see about it on Tuesday,” the source added.

Retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio stated that “the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is likely to lead to a ‘permanent situation in the Philippines that is worse than martial law.’”

In a mobile phone interview last Friday, Roque said Duterte signed the document before leaving for Zamboanga City to meet with military and police commanders.

“We confirm that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed into law Republic Act 11479, or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 on 3 July 2020,” Roque said of the legislation that takes effect 15 days after publication in the Official Gazette.

Thorough review

Roque said the President and his legal team, took time out to study the legislation by weighing the concerns of different stakeholders.

“Terrorism, as we often said, strikes anytime and anywhere. It is a crime against the people and humanity; thus, the fight against terrorism requires a comprehensive approach to contain terrorist threats. The signing of the aforesaid law demonstrates our serious commitment to stamp out terrorism, which has long plagued the country and has caused unimaginable grief and horror to many of our people,” Roque said.

“Together, let us defeat terrorism and make our communities safe and secure under the rule of law,” he added.

Executive Secretary Salvador Mediadea in a message to reporters also confirmed the signing of the legislation.

Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana appealed to the public to give the “much-needed” anti-terrorism law a chance.

“It is a much-needed measure to clothe law enforcement agencies with the necessary power to contain and eradicate terrorists who don’t play by any rules and who hide behind our laws to pursue their evil deeds,” he said in a statement.

Lorenzana also urged the public to “read and understand” the law which President Rodrigo Duterte signed on 3 July.

“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,” he said.

He vowed to strictly implement this law according to its intent and spirit.

“We will ensure that it is not abused,” he added.

‘Flood SC with petitions’

As opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan announced anew that he is preparing a petition questioning the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 before the High Court, he encouraged like-minded critics to flood the SC with petitions “to show opposition against the measure.”

In a radio interview, Pangilinan said the fight against the measure is not yet over as he is set to question the constitutionality of some of its provisions on warrantless arrest and the vague definition of terrorism which he claimed both go against the Bill of Rights.

“I believe that those who maintain that this law is against the Constitution and those who are affected, as much as possible, flood the Supreme Court with petitions to show the magistrates that there are a lot who oppose (the law),” Pangilinan, who voted no on the measure, said.

He also mentioned that the SC should look into Section 29 of the law which Pangilinan said that the provision authorizes the Anti-Terrorism Council to issue a written authority to allow the detention of suspected terrorists for 14 days and extendable for another 10 days.

with Alvin Murcia

and Hananeel Bordey