MANILA — "Nobody" can interfere with the 24-day arrest of terror suspects under the new Anti-Terror Law that critics say could be used to target government critics, a lawyer who is leading the Supreme Court challenge against the measure said Monday.
The law, which President Rodrigo Duterte approved on Friday, requires enforcers to report arrests to the court, which "cannot even release you because it does not [have] jurisdiction over you," said law professor Howard Calleja.
"The courts will not do anything. They will just know you are there, but they cannot release you," he told ANC.
"For 24 days, you are locked up without any crime, without any basis and without hope of being released... Who do I go to to be released? Nobody," the lawyer added.
HOW ARE TERROR SUSPECTS IDENTIFIED?
The anti-terrorism council will adopt the list of extremists by the United Nations' Security Council and Office of Counter-Terrorism, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said Saturday.
Currently tagged as a terrorist organization by the UN is the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf Group, which is responsible for deadly bombings and abductions mostly in southern Philippines.
Esperon said that under procedure, the justice secretary will then submit to the Court of Appeals a petition that identifies groups and individuals that should be deemed as terrorists.
The court will have 6 months to decide on whether or not to grant the petition. After this, terror suspects will be under surveillance for up to 90 days which could lead to arrest, he said.
The 24-day detention, which allegedly violates a 3-day limit set by the Philippine constitution, is among the provisions that Calleja's group questioned in a petition before the Supreme Court filed electronically on Saturday.
The petitioners — who include the De La Salle brothers led by former education secretary Brother Armin Luistro and several civic groups — also challenged the legality of the surveillance and sought a temporary restraining order against the law.
"We call this a witch hunt. If you really have evidence, there's no reason why you have to make a long surveillance or get them without due process," said Calleja.
Calleja on Monday will file physical copies of the 66-page petition against the law that takes effect on July 18.
"We need a terror act, but not in the way it is written. We should write it properly to be consistent with the constitution, to be consistent with the rule of law," he said.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman lodged Monday the second petition against the law. Pleas are typically combined by the Supreme Court and tackled simultaneously, said Calleja.
"We don't have the monopoly of knowledge. All lawyers, all well-meaning Filipinos are welcome to challenge this law. That is our right," the lawyer said.
"We hope and pray for the independence of this court... We need a terror act, but not in the way it is written. We should write it properly to be consistent with the constitution, to be consistent with the rule of law," he added.