MANILA — The petitioners against the country's anti-terror law have identified a team of 7 lawyers, with 6 alternates, who will assert their case before the Supreme Court during the oral arguments on Jan. 19.
Leading the team that will challenge Republic Act 11479, or the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATC), are former Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, based on a joint filing with the high court on Wednesday.
They will be joined by human rights lawyers Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno and Evalyn Ursua, former Regional Human Rights Commission Chair Algamar Latiph, and University of the Philippines College of Law constitutional law professor Alfredo Molo III.
Named as alternates are:
-Atty. Randall Tabayoyong
-Former Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te
-Atty. Josalee Deinla
-Atty. Ephraim Cortez
-Atty. Howard Calleja
-Atty. Bantuas Lucman
The petitioners’ lawyers have a total of 45 minutes to make their case regarding the 21 issues previously identified by the high court to be discussed during the oral arguments.
They have divided these issues into 6 clusters:
-facial challenge of the petition and the definition of terrorism and related crimes
-the constitutionality of the powers of the Anti-Terrorism Council, the Anti-Money Laundering Council and the Department of Justice
-other Anti-Terrorism Act provisions on surveillance, penalties, proscription, among others
-the provisions on warrantless arrests and prolonged detention
-the right to due process and rights of the indigenous peoples and Moros
Solicitor General Jose Calida, who will argue for the government’s case, is allowed to bring 3 lawyers and is also given 45 minutes.
The rest of the petitioners whose counsels are not arguing will be allowed to send 1 lawyer as a representative.
The Supreme Court limited the number of physical attendees during the oral arguments, taking into consideration the still raging coronavirus pandemic.
It has imposed strict quarantine protocols requiring attendees, including the media, to undergo RT-PCR swab tests before they could be allowed inside the SC premises.
Thirty-seven petitions in all have been filed challenging the validity of the anti-terrorism measure.
Petitioners have questioned principally the supposedly vague definition of terrorism and related crimes and the vast powers granted to the Anti-Terrorism Council, which include the power to authorize warrantless arrest and detention without charge for up to 24 days and to designate terrorists.
Other areas of concern include the freezing of assets of designated terrorists, surveillance and proscription or the declaration by a court that a particular group is a terrorist organization, which petitioners say pose great risks to their rights to due process, freedom of speech and expression, and freedom of assembly, among others.
The ATC, which President Rodrigo Duterte signed in July last year, is one of the most challenged laws in recent memory.
Among the high profile petitioners who have sought to declare the law void are retired SC Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, retired Ombudsman and SC Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, Senators Leila de Lima and Francis Pangilinan, and some lawmakers from the House of Representatives.
Groups questioning the measure range from framers of the 1987 Constitution, lawyers, law professors, journalists and members of religious groups, to bloggers, womens’ groups, activists, union organizers, Muslims and indigenous peoples’ groups.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, which is also a petitioner, facilitated coordination among the different groups of petitioners through its National President Domingo Egon Cayosa.
The oral arguments is set at 2 p.m. on Jan. 19, and an audio feed will be streamed on the Supreme Court’s YouTube page.