Church leaders, women's group, lawyers challenge Anti-Terrorism Act at Supreme Court

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 24) — Three more sectors on Friday sought the help of the Supreme Court to nullify the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 for being unconstitutional.

Church leaders, women's rights advocates, and a group of lawyers filed three separate petitions before the high court, raising the number of petitions against the controversial law to 19.

The Alternative Law Groups, a coalition of legal resource organizations, filed the 17th petition against the law recently signed by President Rodrigo Duterte "as it poses dangers to civil society."

Church leaders also filed their own petition challenging the constitutionality of the law. Staunch Duterte critic Bishop Broderick Pabillo is among the petitioners.

"We are concerned how the Anti-Terror law will shrink democratic space because of fear. This will affect the lives of many people and only weaken democracy in our country... Anyone who dares to speak in dissent or organize for positive community development will be affected by the possible threats of the Anti-Terror Law,” Pabillo said.

Bishop Reuel Marigza added, "As Church leaders, we exercise our prophetic and ministerial roles while also asserting our democratic rights as Filipinos. Filing today is a mknn expression of our deep concern for the rights of persons to criticize and articulate opposition no matter who leads the government."

Women’s organizations and individuals led by GABRIELA Alliance of Filipino Women asked the high tribunal to void Republic Act 11479, saying its enactment and implementation are an “exercise of grave abuse of discretion.”

They said their own officers, members, and supporters have been targets of human rights violations committed by state forces during the Duterte administration.

"The Terror Law poses a valid threat to women and the rest of the Filipino people. Its ambiguous definition of terrorism could harm anyone who dare speak against the injustices in society and assert their rights as women and citizens," the petitioners wrote.

The women's group urged the Supreme Court “to be the last bastion of our democracy” by issuing a temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction in relation to the Anti-Terrorism Law.

The Anti-Terrorism Act, signed into law on July 3, has yet to be fully carried out as law enforcers agreed to wait for the implementing rules and regulations for as long as there’s no imminent threat.

Critics said it relaxes safeguards on human rights and is open to abuse, but lawmakers who authored and sponsored the measure maintained it has enough checks against excesses.