Multi-sectoral group files 8th petition vs. Anti-Terrorism Law

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 14) – Multi-sectoral group Sanlakas filed before the Supreme Court on Monday the eighth petition assailing the controversial Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

The progressive group specifically questioned Section 4 of the controversial law, which violates the freedom of speech and expression as enshrined under the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

Sanlakas explained Section 4 declares “advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights” as acts constituting 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.”

“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,” Sanlakas argued in their petition.

The organization, which filed a Temporary Restraining Order for the Anti-Terrorism Law’s implementation, stated the provision also violates the constitutional right to due process.

“Since Sanlakas was founded in 1993, its members have staunchly advocated for social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental reforms to improve living conditions of marginalized Filipinos. Often, calls for such come in the form of advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action – all of which R.A. 11479 now lists as acts of the crime of terrorism when deemed to be coupled with harmful intents,” said Atty. JV Bautista, lead counsel of Sanlakas.

Sanlakas also asked the High Court to order President Rodrigo Duterte to desist in enforcing the questioned provision of the controversial measure. Their plea also included members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to refrain from issuing budget allocations in implementing the Anti-Terrorism Law.

Seven other petitions were filed before the Supreme Court last week challenging the legality of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Law. The petitioners are Rep. Edcel Lagman, the Makabayan bloc, the group of law professor Atty. Howard Calleja, Far Eastern University Institute of Law professors led by Dean Mel Sta. Maria, former government corporate counsel Rudolf Jurado, the group of 1987 Constitution framers Christian Monsod and Felicitas Arroyo, and labor rights groups Center for Trade Union and Human Rights and Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center.

Duterte signed the law last July 3, amid widespread criticisms due to its vague provisions that relax safeguards on human rights and are open to abuse.

Proponents of the law argued that the Human Security Act of 2007 must be repealed and the government now needs more surveillance powers to protect the society from terrorist groups.