Group reiterates plea for TRO against anti-terror law before SC

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 23 2021 08:34 PM

ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - A group of petitioners against the anti-terror law has urged the Supreme Court again to act on their plea to stop the implementation of the new law amid the government's supposed recent actions that "depict an alarming tendency to disregard constitutional rights."

In a joint reiterative motion filed before the high court on Monday, the group again sought the issuance of a temporary restraining order or similar relief to immediately stop the implementation of Republic Act 11479 or Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

"These supervening events... underscore the chilling effect that the ATA exerts on the public, restraining persons from exercising their freedom of expression and other constitutional rights," read the motion.

"Such acts are indicative of the government's 'spirit of hostility, or at the very least, discrimination that finds no support in reason' with which it will implement the vague and overbroad terms of the ATA."

The petitioners, which include lawyer Howard Calleja, Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman and Free Legal Assistance Group chairman Chel Diokno, argued that the recent events such as the continuous red-tagging of groups and threats made by government officials have amplified the urgent need for a TRO or similar order.

The group cited the Feb. 12 opinion piece of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, that was published in the Manila Times.

The high-ranking military official wrote that "whosoever wishes the demolition of the anti-terror law must be a friend, if not actually a supporter or member, of the communist and terror groups which the law intends to inter once and for all — and for all time," the group said.

The petitioners also mentioned the arrest of Lumad school teacher Chad Errol Booc in the supposed rescue operation of members of an indigenous people’s group at a university in Cebu City on Feb. 15.

A month before, Cordillera Peoples Alliance chairperson Windel Bolinget "surrendered" to the National Bureau of Investigation amid a "shoot-to-kill" order if he should resist arrest. Both men are petitioners against the ATA.

"Their arrests show that petitioners, who are similarly outspoken in their advocacy and dissent, are under imminent and credible danger of prosecution with the enforcement of the ATA," the group said.

The petitioners also cited the branding of religious and indigenous peoples' groups as alleged terrorist groups.

On claims it is an alleged terror organization, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, a group of priests, nuns and the faithful committed to helping the rural poor, had been subjected to the freezing of its assets under the Republic Act 10168 or Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012.

Non-government organization Salugpungan Ta'tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center, Inc. has also been branded as being linked to communists in a complaint that prompted the Department of Education to close its schools, the group said.

There's also the unilateral abrogation of the 1998 accord between the University of the Philippines and Department of National Defense and the red-tagging of alumni of the state university, the petitioners added.

"The foregoing developments demonstrate the grave and imminent threat to the constitutional rights of petitioners," added the motion.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the anti-terror law in July 2020 despite heavy opposition over fears it could be used to crack down on dissent.

Among the law's contentious provisions include warrantless arrest, prolonged detention without charges and the designation of any person or group as terrorists.

The high court on Feb. 2 began hearing oral arguments on petitions challenging the validity of the Anti-Terrorism Act. 

Oral arguments scheduled on Feb. 23 was suspended after a Supreme Court justice tested positive for the coronavirus. It will resume on March 2.

- With a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News