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ATA petitioners want reprieve

Alvin Murcia

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With the postponement of the oral arguments due to the self-quarantine of some justices, petitioners against the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) pleaded anew before the Supreme Court (SC) for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) to halt the implementation of the law.

The plea was filed 22 February in a joint reiterative motion seeking for immediate relief through the issuance of a TRO.

They cited several incidents involving the arrest of several individuals, including petitioners in the 37 petitions against ATA, allegedly by the police or military

These include the arrest of Chad Errol Booc, a volunteer teacher, and Windel Bolinget, chair of the Cordillera People’s Alliance which is one of the ATA petitioners, at the retreat house of the University of San Carlos in Cebu City for allegedly “recruiting and exploiting minors to be trained as child warriors.”

Also cited was the threat aired by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. against online journalist Tetch Torres Tupas for her article on two Aeta tribesmen who were arrested and charged, among others, with violations of ATA.

Parlade has apologized to Tupas, thereafter.

They also noted the continuous red-tagging of activists, even advocacy lawyers, by the military and the police.

Also, the petitioners stressed that based on the investigation conducted by the Commission on Human Rights and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, there was no evidence of indoctrination to join the communist movement committed by the Booc and Bolinget.

They also noted the continuous red-tagging of activists, even advocacy lawyers, by the military and the police.

“These supervening events, along with other recent developments…underscore the chilling effect that the ATA exerts on the public, restraining the persons from exercising their freedom of expression and other constitutional rights,” the motion read.

“Such acts are indicative of the government’s spirit of hostility, nor at the very least, discrimination that finds no support in reason with which it will implement the vague and overbroad terms of the ATA. Thus, petitioners asked for and were granted leave by the Honorable Court to file the instant joint motion reiterating their extremely urgent plea for injunctive relief to forestall further serious violations of constitutional rights,” it added.

The petitioners maintained in their petition for TRO that ATA violates at least 15 fundamental rights of the people — on speech and expression, religion, assembly, association, unreasonable searches and seizures, travel, bail, innocence, information, torture, among others.

The SC has been holding oral arguments on the petitioners for the past three weeks.

In the past three hearings, the arguments of the petitioners have so far been heard by the magistrates.

The justices have yet to hear the expert opinion of retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno and retired Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza who have been appointed as amici curiae (friends of the Court) on the issue.

The scheduled arguments on 23 February have been canceled by the SC after some of the magistrates decided to go on self-quarantine as a health precaution against the Covid-2019.
The continuation of the oral argument was set on 2 March.

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