Charter framers, journalists, solons file 12th petition against anti-terrorism law at Supreme Court

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 23) — Two framers of the 1987 Constitution, opposition lawmakers, veteran journalists, and several human rights defenders on Thursday filed the 12th petition before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act and calling for a halt to its implementation.

The petitioners include Constitutional Commission of 1986 members Dr. Florangel Rosario-Braid and Professor Edumundo Garcia, Senators Leila de Lima and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Rep. Kit Belmonte, former Senators Sergio Osmeña III and Wigberto “Bobby” Tañada, former Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada and former Akbayan party-list Rep. Etta Rosales.

Journalists Maria Ressa, Maritess Vitug, John Nery, Chay Hofileña, Jo-Ann Maglipon, Ceres Doyo, Lilibeth Frondoso, Rachel Khan, Beatrice Puente; former Senate secretary Lutgardo Barbo and law professor Chel Diokno complete the list of petitioners.

Their 73-page plea asked the Supreme Court to declare the entire law unconstitutional. They also urged the court to issue a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction or both while the case is pending, to halt the implementation of the law, including the crafting of the implementing rules and regulations.

Aside from the unconstitutionality of the recently-signed law, the petitioners said Republic Act 11479 removes several constitutional powers of the high tribunal.

"The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 nevertheless hands to government a sledgehammer, a blunt instrument that may easily be wielded to batter down the constitutional guardrails protecting the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances, and ultimately, terrorize the sovereign people into silence and servility,” the petition read.

The anti-terrorism law formally took effect on Saturday, or 15 days after its publication on July 3.

Its implementing rules and regulations (IRR), however, are still being finalized by the Anti-Terrorism Council. The Anti-Terrorism Act will not be enforced without the IRR for as long as there is no terrorist threat to the country, Cabinet officials said.

The measure, which repealed the Human Security Act of 2007, will give more surveillance powers to government forces. It will also implement stricter penalties for suspected terrorists— including a longer detention period without judicial warrant of arrest.