MANILA - Two former Supreme Court justices and law experts from the University of the Philippines College of Law were the latest to question the constitutionality of the recently passed Anti-Terrorism Act, citing provisions dangerous to the innocent.
Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and several lawyers filed a petition before the high court Wednesday seeking to declare the entire law unconstitutional and stop its implementation -- the 11th group to challenge the measure.
They were joined by UP Law professors Dante Gatmaytan, Jay Batongbacal, Theodore Te, Victoria Loanzon and Anthony Charlemagne Yu, former Magdalo Party-list Rep. Francisco Ashley Acedillo and student leader Tierone James Santos.
Gatmaytan, Loanzon and Yu all teach constitutional law while former Supreme Court spokesperson Te teaches criminal law. Batongbacal is the associate dean of UP Law and director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, an outspoken critic of President Rodrigo Duterte's policies in the West Philippine Sea.
Named as respondents in the petition were the Anti-Terrorism Council, the Senate, the House of Representatives, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and several Cabinet officials.
In an 86-page plea, petitioners said the vague and broad provisions of the law justify its outright invalidation, pointing out that the lack of standards in the wording of the law may lead to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement and malicious prosecution of innocent people.
Section 4 of the law, which defines terrorism, is all-encompassing, petitioners said, and since sections 5 to 12 are all based on this provision, innocent acts, speech and statements may be classified as falling under threat, incitement, proposal or conspiracy to commit terrorism - creating a chilling effect.
Some provisions, they said, punish individuals and organizations designated as terrorists by mere association, violating the right to due process, which requires that they should be heard first.
The group also hit the powers granted to the Anti-Terrorism Council that are greater than those given to the President even in times of invasion and rebellion.
These include the power to authorize arrests on the basis of mere suspicion, detention of suspects for up to 24 days without charges, and the search and seizure of property without court intervention.
Petitioners expressed notable concern for the violation of the doctrine of separation of powers.
Carpio, in a statement, pointed out that the Anti-Terrorism Act takes the country back to martial law, echoing an earlier statement which warned that its passage would put the Philippines in a situation "worse than martial law."
“The Constitution declares that the right of the people “to be secure in their persons... against unreasonable... seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose” shall be “inviolable.” To guarantee this, the Constitution erected two fortresses: the first fortress is that only a judge can issue warrants of arrests; the second fortress is that warrants of arrest must be issued only upon probable cause," he said.
"What has the ATA (Anti-Terrorism Act) done? The ATA has demolished both and reinstated the ASSOs (arrest, search and seizure orders) of the Martial Law era. Section 29 of the ATA begins with the tell-tale heading 'Detention Without Judicial Warrant of Arrest,'" he added.
Batongbacal, meanwhile, pointed out that the way law enforcement agents reacted to protests against the anti-terrorism law -- arresting and red-tagging some protesters and erroneous claims of some government officials -- is proof that misinterpretation of the law is certain and the law itself is the clear and present danger from which the Supreme Court should protect the public.
Petitioners claimed they are themselves in "imminent danger of prosecution," with some of them having been accused of "warmongering" and being part of the alleged "Oust Duterte" movement while their law classes in UP require them to discuss divisive and socially controversial issues.
Morales, for her part, highlighted the irony of the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
"In its fight against terrorism, the government must not be the source of terror and impunity itself. We must never let reason continue to escape us," Morales said.
The group also asked the Supreme Court for a special raffle and to hold oral arguments.
Petitioners are represented by fellow UP constitutional law professors Luisito Liban, John Molo and Gwen Grecia-de Vera, and UP Law alumnus Darwin Angeles.