Groups call on Supreme Court to act on 37 petitions vs. Anti-Terrorism Act

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 18) — Days after the release of the implementing rules and regulations of the Anti-Terrorism Act, some groups are now calling on the Supreme Court to act on the petitions against it.

Fearing more human rights abuses, lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc are asking the high court to address the 37 petitions against the controversial new law.

According to Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, the Anti-Terrorism Council, an executie body composed of presidential appointees, could be the "new face of martial law".

"Ito 'yung bagong mukha ng martial law, na 'di na kailangan magdeklara ng martial law dahil meron nang anti-terror council na parang military group na naglalabas ng policies at judicial functions para manghuli ng pinagdududahan nilang terorista," said Zarate.

[Translation: This is the new face of martial law ,which does not even need to be declared because there is the anti-terror council that acts like a military group that releases policies and judicial functions to arrest those they suspect to be terrorists.]

Zarate is also asking the Supreme Court to declare as unconstitutional one of the provisions of the IRR, which states that individuals and groups designated by the ATC to be "terrorists" will be published in a national broadsheet and online.

"'Pag naka-publish na ang pangalan mo, bibigyan ka ng labinlimang araw para i-contest ito. Andun na 'yung pangalan mo sa newspaper of general circulation, tinagurian ka na terorista at maghabol ka sa tambol mayor kung pakinggan ka nila," says Zarate.

[Translation: You will be given fifteen days to contest once your name is published. Your name will be published in a newspaper of general circulation, calling you a terrorist, and even if you shout all you can, they will not listen to you .]

Justice Usec. Adrian Sugay, the designated spokesperson on the Anti-Terror Act, assured that the tagging of individuals as "terrorists or involved in terrorist activities" will be based on probable cause.

Sugay adds that authorities who do not comply with the procedures laid down in the IRR with regards to the arrest of suspected terrorists will face a penalty for non-compliance.

"There are enough safeguards in the law and besides, before persons can be arrested for being suspected terrorists, there are procedures that can be followed and there is a quantum of evidence that needs to be complied with," Sugay assures.

The Supreme Court has yet to schedule oral arguments on the petitions against the law.