37 petitions vs. anti-terrorism law may be refiled collectively, says solon

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 29)— The 37 petitions challenging the constitutionality of the controversial anti-terrorism law before the Supreme Court may be refiled collectively, a lawmaker revealed on Thursday.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman told CNN Philippines that the concerned parties arrived at the consensus during an online conference a few days ago.

“A few days ago, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines called a Zoom conference on this particular issue,” Lagman disclosed in an interview with The Source.

“It was resolved that if possible, all of these 37 petitioners should collectively refile their prayer for the Supreme Court to issue the temporary restraining order. And also for the Supreme Court to now schedule the oral arguments, so that these issues can be ventilated before the court— in session or by virtual platform,” he added.

Lagman, however, did not provide further details on the plan.

The opposition lawmaker is among the petitioners seeking to junk and stop the implementation of the anti-terrorism measure, one critics labeled as “vague” and may be open to abuse and human rights violations.

For one, Lagman argued that the recent red-tagging issue involving a military official can be considered as a major ground for the high court to consider the issuance of a TRO against the highly-contested law.

“I think this red-tagging has been emboldened by the enactment as well as the effectivity of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. That is why I am saying that red-tagging as well as the surveillance of targets should be additional major grounds for the Supreme Court to now issue a TRO to stop the effectivity and implementation of the new anti-terrorism law,” Lagman stressed.

The lawmaker, meanwhile, expressed hope that the planned collective refiling would convince the court to act on the pending motions for the TRO.

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“I think a collective refiling of the prayer for the issuance of the TRO will most probably convince the court that there is really the critical immediacy of issuing the TRO, more particularly in the wake of recent events wherein military officials made use of the anti-terrorism law as an excuse for red-tagging and other modes which would be detrimental to freedom of expression as well as freedom of association,” Lagman said.

The anti-terrorism law — which repealed the Human Security Act of 2007 — gives more surveillance powers to government forces. Among its contentious features is a provision allowing suspected terrorists to be arrested without warrant and detained without charges for up to 24 days.

Despite mounting criticisms, some government officials have repeatedly allayed fears over the law, saying citizens have their rights and several safeguards under the Constitution.