Another multi-sectoral people’s alliance and partylist organization, Sanlakas, has asked the Supreme Court to declare as unconstitutional Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 for being unconstitutional.
In a petition, the group represented by its president Manjette Lopez challenged the constitutionality of Section 4 of R.A. 11479 for supposedly violating Section 4 Article III of the Constitution and under the void-for-vagueness principle.
Sanlakas argued that the said provision declares “advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights” as a crime of terrorism when such is “intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person’s life, or to create a serious risk to public safety” and when its purpose “is to intimidate the general public or a segment thereof, create atmosphere or spread a message of fear, to provoke or influence by intimidation the government or any international organization, or seriously destabilize or destroy the fundamental political economic, or social structures of the country, or create a public emergency or seriously undermine public safety.”
The group said that advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action are forms of free speech and expression guaranteed under Section 1, Article II of the 1987 Constitution.
The petitioner also expressed apprehension that the ATC would make free speech, free expression and free assembly “to the realm of unlawful acts.”
“The subject features of the crime of terrorism in this case (viz., intention and/or purpose) will be highly dependent on the perception of the situation or facts by the law enforcement agent or military personnel authorized in writing by the executive and all-powerful Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC),” the petition said.
“And the absence of standards leaves such a wide latitude of discretion to law enforcement to determine whether ‘advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, and industrial mass actions’ are intended to cause harms which the law seeks to abate,” it added.
They explained that acts of advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political are driven by individual or collective intent which are intended to bring about a desired result, including the change or reform of government policies, decisions, and actuations.
“How can these constitutionally-protected and guaranteed acts now be dragged and considered as crimes of terrorism if accompanied by intent and purpose which are vague, not clearly defined, bereft of standards, and susceptible to the self-serving and gratuitous interpretations of police and military enforcers?,” the group asked.
Sanlakas, which also asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order to immediately enjoin its implementation, brings the number of petitioners seeking to nullify the anti-terror law to eight.
Prior to Sanlakas petition, seven groups have already filed separate petitions seeking a similar relief from the SC.
The petitioners include the group of lawyer Howard Calleja and former education secretary Armin Luistro,; Rep. Edcel C. Lagman; the group of Law Dean Mel Sta. Maria and several professors of the Far Eastern University; the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives led by Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate; former head of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel Rudolph Philip B. Jurado; the group of former members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission Christian S. Monsod and Felicitas A. Aquino and their group from the Ateneo Human Rights Center; and the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights and the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center.
Last July 7, the SC acted on the first four cases and directed the
Office of the President and several agencies in the Executive Department and both Houses of Congress to comment in 10 days on both the pleas for temporary restraining order (TRO) and on the petitions.
The first four cases were also ordered consolidated into one case. It is expected that petitions filed after July 7 would be included in the consolidated cases.
The petitioners are seeking to o declare as unconstitutional Section 4 of ATL saying that it violates basic rights of the people under the Constitution; Sections 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, and 22 as these provisions violate the fundamental right to privacy; the designation power of the ATC under Section 25 as it violates during process rights; preliminary order of proscription, under Section 26 and 27 for being unconstitutional; the period of detention without judicial charge under Section 29 for being arbitrary, unreasonable and unjustified; and Section 34 as it impairs the constitutional right to bail.
Contrary to the claim of the government and the authors of ATL, the petitioners argued that its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) cannot rectify the deficiencies and excesses in the new law because the IRR cannot modify, amend or repeal a statute.