SC orders gov't officials to comment on Anti-Terrorism Act petitions

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 7) — The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered members of the Anti-Terrorism Council and other government leaders to comment on petitions filed against the newly enacted Anti-Terrorism Act.

The four petitions seeking to challenge the legality of the widely criticized law that were filed by the Rep. Edcel Lagman, the Makabayan bloc, and the groups of Atty. Howard Calleja and FEU Law have been consolidated, according to sources.

The high court required the respondents to file their comments on the petition and application for temporary restraining order within 10 days from notice.

The officials named as respondents include Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and the eight other members of the Anti-Terrorism Council. The Makabayan bloc's petition included President Rodrigo Duterte as a respondent, while Lagman added the Congress in his petition.

The Supreme Court order comes a day after the petitions were filed. On Monday, they asked the high court to issue a writ of preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order from implementing Republic Act No. 11479, which was signed into law by Duterte on July 3 amid appeals to veto the widely-opposed bill.

The law, which gives government forces more surveillance powers, takes effect on July 18. The Anti-Terrorism Council, chaired by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, is set to convene to review the law and draft its implementing rules and regulations.

The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 repeals the Human Security Act of 2007, giving 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.

Critics said the measure relaxes safeguards on human rights and is open to abuse, but lawmakers who authored and sponsored the bill said it is at par with the laws of other countries and will not be used against law-abiding citizens.

CNN Philippines' justice correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.