MANILA - The junking of a local court of the first known anti-terror law case against 2 Aetas will not have any "significant" impact on the petitions challenging the validity of the controversial law, the country's anti-insurgency task force said Wednesday.
"I think this will have no significant impact on the decisions to be done by the Supreme Court because... it wasn't thrown to them as a fact. It's not for them to take into cognizance. I think that it will be appreciated independently by the Supreme Court," lawyer Marlon Bosantog, legal spokesperson of National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, said in an ANC interview.
An Olongapo City court has acquitted Aeta farmers Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos, who were the first to be charged as terrorists under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. They were granted the demurrer to evidence, which challenges the sufficiency of evidence filed against them.
Some 37 petitions were submitted challenging the anti-terror law at the high tribunal, with oral arguments concluding last May. Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo had said the SC would try to rule on the case within the year.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed the measure on July 3 last year, with the law taking effect on July 18 - to the objection of rights groups locally and overseas.
They cited possible abuses this may pose to government critics, citing the President's past pronouncements against opposition groups.
While the NTF-ELCAC advocates for the new counterterrorism law, Bosantog said the agency welcomed the dismissal of the case.
"It validates [that] our judicial system is quite working," he said.
Bosantog, also director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, added: " With the 2 accused since their arrest, we've been providing help and support even with their family and right now, they're out of jail. We see this as a form of accomplishment for NCIP."
In a joint statement, both agencies said: "Both NTF-ELCAC and NCIP ceaselessly worked together to remove our IP brothers from the exploitative clutches of the CPP-NPA-NDF including their front organizations, like Karapatan, so that their case will (be) justly heard under our system of laws."
"These groups had been exploiting this case and has used it to move for the invalidation of the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020, which our ICCs/IPs (Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples) had sought and fully supported for their protection against the CPP/NPA presence within their lands," they added.