MANILA — A multi-sectoral alliance and party-list group is the 8th petitioner to question the Philippines' new Anti-Terrorism Act before the Supreme Court, submitting its pleading on Monday.
Sanlakas, a progressive coalition composed of labor unions, agricultural workers, teachers, vendors, transport and other groups, urged the high court to declare section 4 of the new law defining terrorism as unconstitutional for being a "vague provision" that violates the due process clause of the Constitution.
In its petition for certiorari and prohibition, the group also asked the high court for a temporary restraining order to stop the implementation of the anti-terrorism measure set to take effect next week.
Sanlakas expressed concern that the lack of standards and clarity on the new law's definition of terrorism would mean that their usual means of advocating for social, economic, political, cultural and environmental reforms will now be considered acts of terrorism.
It pointed out that the law's definition of terrorism considers "advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass actions, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights" as the overt act of terrorism if coupled with the intention "to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person's life, or to create a serious risk to public safety" and the purpose "to provoke or influence the government by intimidation."
"Ang tingin natin, pini-penalize 'yung mere intention... With that very definition, the discretion is placed on law enforcement," Aaron Pedrosa, Sanlakas secretary-general told reporters.
The group said this will make the implementation of the law "highly dependent on the perception of the situation or facts by the law enforcement agent or military personnel authorized in writing by the executive and all-powerful Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC)," giving them a wide latitude of discretion because there are no clear standards.
"It is a fact of our life, based on long actual experience, that the police and military agents of the state have so frequently abused and misused their armed authority, especially when it comes to their dealings with workers in the picket lines, urban poor community dwellers in demolition sites, farmers demanding land ownership, and demonstrating students," Sanlakas said in its petition.
"Since 'intent' and 'purpose' are a state of the mind, they become easily susceptible to various interpretations, oftentimes, to suit a particular agenda on the part of the police and military agents, if not the government itself," it added, highlighting the lack of definition of the terms "provocation," "influence," "intimidation" and destabilization.
And because the law regulates free speech, expression and assembly, the group said it can immediately question the validity of the law even if it has not yet suffered any injury as the law is not yet in force. It added that the law is on its face void for being vague.
Named as respondents are Rodrigo Duterte as President and Commander-in-Chief, the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The following have previously filed petitions before the high court against the anti-terror law:
• The Calleja group
• Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman
• FEU Law Dean Mel Sta. Maria and FEU Law professors
• Makabayan bloc
• Ex-Office of the Government Corporate Counsel chief Rudolf Philip Jurado
• Center for Trade Union and Human Rights
• Constitution framers and Ateneo lawyers