SC sets oral arguments on Anti-Terrorism Law petitions to January 19, 2021

(Eagle News)–The Supreme Court has set the date for oral arguments on  petitions against the anti-terrorism law.

In an advisory given to the media on Friday, Nov. 20, the SC said these were scheduled on January 19, 2021.

The SC also enumerated the issues to be discussed during the oral arguments  to be held at the en banc session hall.

The High Court said the petitioners and the respondents, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General, shall limit themselves to the following preliminary issues:

  • Whether the petitioners have a legal standing to sue
  • Whether the issues raised in the petitions involve and actual and justiciable controversy
  •  Whether the petitioners’ direct recourse to the SC was proper
  • Whether facial challenge is proper
  • Whether the law should be found unconstitutional in its entirety if the Court finds the definition of terrorism and the powers of the Anti-Terrorism Council are constitutionally infirm

Among the substantive issues to be discussed are whether section 4 defining terrorism and penalizing such was “void for vagueness or overbroad” in violation of the constitutional rights to free speech, due process and expression; whether surveillance under section 16 violates due process, the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, to privacy and communication and correspondence, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, and the accused’s right to be presumed innocent; and whether the given power to the council  to designate terrorist individuals, groups and organizations under Section 25 encroaches on the judicial power and the Supreme Court’s rule-making power, inflicts punishment ex post facto, and violates due process and constitutional rights due to a lack of clear parameters.

The parties will also explain  whether or not the court should issue a temporary restraining order or a status quo ante order.

The SC said the petitioners and respondents shall  have 30 minutes per side to present their arguments on the issues.

There are 37 petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Law.

Critics have said the law could be used to red-tag individuals criticizing government.

Law enforcers and some lawmakers such as former PNP Chiefs Ronald dela Rosa and Panfilo Lacson, however, defended the law, saying it would boost the government’s efforts in the fight against terrorism.

Lacson, who was one of the principal authors of the bill in the Senate, said he would “exert extra effort in guarding against possible abuse in its implementation, notwithstanding all the safeguards incorporated in this landmark legislation.”

“Much credit goes to (President Rodrigo Duterte). With all the pressure coming from different directions against the signing of the Anti Terrorism Bill into law, at the end of the day, it is his strong political will that mattered most,” Lacson said.

“I cannot imagine this measure being signed under another administration. If only for this, I take my hat off to the president,” he added.