Solicitor General Jose Calida on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to immediately dismiss the 37 petitions seeking to declare as constitutional the controversial Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, saying the government is not the enemy.
During the continuation of the oral arguments on cases challenging the constitutionality of the anti-terrorism law which the SC conducted online, Calida laid down the grounds on why the petitions against ATA should be dismissed.
Calida cited several grounds for the dismissal of the petitions such as supervening events, insisting that political questions are beyond the jurisdiction of the high court.
According to the chief state lawyer, ATA is essential to the Philippine’s compliance to its international obligations.
The chief state lawyer cited among the supervening events include the filing of charges against two Aetas – Junior Ramos and Jasper Gurung – before the Regional Trial Court of Olongapo City; three cases against three individuals in Negros occidental; the filing of four criminal cases in Jolo, Sulu against 13 individuals and several unidentified persons led by Mudzrimar “Mundi” Sawadjaan for violation of Sections 4 (a) and 4 (d) of the Anti-Terrorism Act in connection with the August 24, 2020 Jolo bombings.
He also mentioned the case that is pending before the RTC of Gubat, Sorsogon for violation of Section 4 (d).
Calida also cited as supervening event the recent decision of the Anti-Terrorism Council to designate the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army as terrorist organizations.
“It is the duty of petitioners to demonstrate actual cases and controversy worthy of judicial resolution. Despite the braggadocio of the petitions, they did not do it. The persons now facing charges for violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act are now before this Honorable Court,” Calida told SC magistrates led by newly-installed Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo.
“Instead, they are now litigating their cases before the Regional Trial Courts. Ergo, any resolution in this case would be purely academic and hypothetical – a clear waste of this Honorable Court’s time and resources,” the Solicitor General stressed.
During the virtual oral arguments, Calida also slammed the petitioners for not speaking against the recent atrocities committed by terrorists against the people, and instead “unfairly stigmatized” ATA as a mere legal stunt by the administration to quell the opposition.
“The Anti-Terrorism Act is not an instrument of oppression. Neither is it a tool to suppress the vibrance of our democracy. No, it is the embodiment of the State’s policy to protect life, liberty, and property from terrorism – a commitment to peace in our day and the future of our children,” Calida said.
Besides, according to the chief state lawyer, the enactment of ATA by Congress was political in nature, thus, cannot be subject to judicial scrutiny.
“Our lawmakers enacted the Anti-Terrorism Act primarily for the peace and security in our country. The ATA protects the economic and financial security of Filipinos against the adverse effects of greylisting, or worse, blacklisting by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Questions on the propriety and propriety and timeliness of the law’s enactment as raised by petitioners are purely political questions, and, as such, beyond the ambit of this Honorable Court’s power of judicial review,” Calida said.
He added that the high court should dismiss the petitions considering that the ATA is essential to the country’s compliance to international obligations under the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) No. 1373 and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing Terrorism.
The Solicitor General explained that Congress stressed the need for the ATA because the FATF has set a deadline for the enactment of an anti-terrorism law.
Calida warned that the country will be at risk of being included in the “high-risk” and non-cooperative jurisdictions of the Global Anti-Money Laundering Watchdog.
“Without such law the Philippines will be treated as a leper. FATF will see to it to either blacklist us or put on a grey list,” the chief state lawyer said.
If the country is included in the grey list, Calida said this would result in reducing investor and lender confidence as well as limited access to banking and financial service.
He noted that millions of OFWs and their families will also suffer due to higher cost of remittances and increase in loan interest to borrowers by Philippine banks.
“Clear, grey listing would seriously affect the country’s international trade, remittances, and humanitarian financial flows that support the country’s economic growth and development,” Calida said.
The Solicitor General said the petitions should be dismissed on the ground of lack of legal standing by the petitions as they did not suffer any direct or indirect injury with the implementation of ATA.
Calida added that the parties with more direct and specific interest in the issues were those charged before the lower courts with violation of the provisions of ATA.
Contrary to the claims of the petitioners, Calida stressed that the ATA maintains probable cause in warrantless arrest; ensures lawful data acquisition and handling; merely regulates conduct and speech; and does contravene the right to speedy trial and disposition of cases.
Calida said the powers of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) are purely executive in nature.