Anti-terrorism law oral arguments to resume via video conference

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 8) — The Supreme Court on Thursday announced the resumption of proceedings — virtually instead of physical sessions — for the Anti-Terrorism Act two weeks after the government lifts the enhanced community quarantine now enforced in Metro Manila.

If the ECQ will no longer be extended beyond April 11, the oral arguments can reopen on April 27, the high court said.

“The continuation of the oral arguments shall be through videoconferencing with live audio streaming made available to the public,” Clerk of Court Marife Lomibao-Cuevas said in a statement.

The justices will decide on technical details and rules once they are able to convene, according to the statement.

The high court last held oral arguments on the controversial law last March 2. It was only Day 4. There have been several postponements to give way for disinfection of the Supreme Court compound in Manila, and justices and participants having to go on quarantine.

The oral arguments were supposed to resume on Tuesday, but the high court again deferred amid the imposition of ECQ in the National Capital Region. Metro Manila, epicenter of the local coronavirus outbreak, and four nearby provinces have been under ECQ since March 29 due to an exponential rise in infections.

As the country grapples with the COVID-19 crisis, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the anti-terrorism law despite questions on its constitutionality. It resulted in 37 petitions against what is now the most challenged law in the Supreme Court’s recent history.

Petitioners have repeatedly asked for a temporary restraining order to stop the implementation of the law, which they said violates constitutional rights and puts government critics at risk of human rights abuses.

In a March 2 resolution, the Supreme Court said the en banc “resolved to await the comment of the Office of the Solicitor General” on the alleged intimidation and red-tagging of the law’s critics before acting on pending motions for TRO.