MANILA - “Permanently under a situation worse than martial law.”
The Philippines will be under this state once the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is enacted, according to retired Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Wednesday.
Speaking at a webinar organized by the Management Association of the Philippines, Carpio took off from an earlier pronouncement from Senate President Vicente Sotto III to explain his point.
“Senate Pres. Vicente Sotto III recently said, ‘Hindi na kailangan ng Martial Law kapag napasa na namin itong Anti-Terror Bill’."
“I agree with Sen. Sotto that upon enactment into law of the Anti-Terror Act, martial law will be superfluous. Under the Constitution, the President can declare martial law and suspend the writ of habeas corpus for not more than 60 days… Congress, by majority vote, can revoke the declaration within 48 hours from its declaration," Carpio said.
“In contrast, the Anti-Terrorism Act, once enacted into law, remains in the statute books forever until repealed by Congress or invalidated by the Supreme Court,” he added.
Carpio noted that under martial law, when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended thereby allowing warrantless arrests, “a person charged for rebellion must be charged in court 3 days from arrest, otherwise he shall be released.”
But under the anti-terror bill, which is already awaiting the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte, a person or organization tagged as “terrorist” may be detained without hearing and formal charges for up to 24 days.
“So that’s longer than the 3 days under martial law,” he said.
“The person arrested for terrorism can, at any time during the 24 days, of course, file a petition for habeas corpus. Right after the arrest he can do that."
"But once the custodian shows the written authority of the Anti-Terrorism Council to the judge, that there is an order for his arrest because he is a ‘terrorist’, then the judge would be compelled to dismiss the petition because the person is being detained ‘upon a lawful order pursuant to law.’ That will be the situation unless section 29 is invalidated by the Supreme Court," Carpio explained.
“In short, with the Anti-Terrorism Act, as part of the law of the land, it is as if the Philippines is permanently under a situation worse than martial law.”
ONLY COURTS CAN ISSUE ARREST WARRANTS
Carpio said the controversial proposed measure “demolishes fortresses” in the Constitution aimed at protecting the “inviolable” right against unreasonable arrest.
“There is not doubt whatsoever that under the present Constitution, only a judge must issue a warrant of arrest. This ‘fortress’ must be inviolable. The Anti-Terrorism Act has demolished the first ‘fortress’ and reinstated the ASOs (arrest and seizure without warrant orders) of the Marcos period,” he said.
The power granted to the Anti-Terrorism Council - whose members will all come from the executive department - to order arrests without court warrant also “demolishes” the constitutional guarantee that probable cause must first be established as a requisite to the issuance of warrant, Carpio said.
He said principal author Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s statement that the law will enable government to be “proactive” in fighting terrorism runs counter to the concept of legal citizen’s arrest, where the crime is being committed upon arrest.
“DEVASTATING EFFECT” ON 2022 ELECTIONS
Carpio warned that should the proposed measure be enacted in toto, it will threaten, come 2022 presidential elections, freedoms being enjoyed by the public and journalists.
“The Anti-Terrorism Council will have a devastating effect on the freedom of speech and freedom of the press in the May 2022 presidential elections," he said.
While the Human Security Act of 2007 provides for the automatic suspension of the law "one month before the elections, and two months after," the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 does not have such provision.
"So, the Anti-Terrorism Act continues during the election period,” Carpio said.
He said there are two ways to rid the new bill of its “unconstitutional” provisions: have these invalidated by the SC, or repealed by Congress.
“If we do not want to experience a contraction of our civil liberties, we must all work to have the objectionable provisions in the Anti-Terrorism Act invalidated by the Supreme Court or repealed by Congress. Vigilance is the price of freedom,” Carpio said.