Petitioners band together to urge SC to halt enforcement of anti-terror law

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 27 2020 02:19 AM

MANILA — Twenty-three groups of petitioners out of the 37 who petitioned against the Anti-Terrorism Act before the Supreme Court came together on Thursday to reiterate their plea for the high court to stop the implementation of the new law.

In a joint motion, petitioners led by lawyers Howard Calleja and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers and Makabayan chair Neri Colmenares urged the Supreme Court to issue a status quo ante order (SQAO) and/or a temporary restraining order (TRO).

A TRO seeks to maintain an existing status by preventing the implementation of an action while an SQAO restores a specific condition to its state before the issuance of an order or action.

“Thirty-seven actually petitioners dito ang nagsignify kahapon na willing sila mag-sign ng joint motion reiterating the prayer for TRO or status quo ante order. Ang nakahabol na pumirma ay 23,” Colmenares told the media shortly after filing of the motion.

“Pero siguro ang importante is all petitioners ay altogether and one. Sama-sama. Of course, syempre marami kami 37, may 23 to sign pero nonetheless, we are all together in one group. Sama-sama po kaming lahat, kumbaga united front against the constitutionality,” Calleja added.

Petitioners cited in their joint motion the filing of a criminal case against 2 Aetas in Zambales and another reported case involving farmers from Negros, plus the supposed “red-tagging” of some petitioners and lawyers by public officials, including those that belong to the Anti-Terrorism Council.

“Under the circumstances, and in view as well of certain strong objections to the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations as already raised by some petitioners, we collectively submit that it is imperative, and thus implore, that the Honorable Court meanwhile issue the injunctive relief prayed for,” the petitioners said in their joint motion.

Petitioners said a lot could happen between now and the oral arguments scheduled on January 19, 2021 when SC is expected to also discuss during the oral arguments whether to issue a TRO/SQAO.

“Mano ba naman na i-restrain na muna habang di pa tapos ang oral arguments sa Korte Suprema kasi sabi nga naman ng ilang petitioners, may chilling effect na, may nangyayari nang impact sa human rights in a sense na kaya nga siya na-challenge sa Korte Suprema,” Colmenares explained to the media.

PRELIMINARY CONFERENCE

Calleja and Colmenares were in the Supreme Court Thursday, along with representatives of the other petitioners for the preliminary conference to discuss details surrounding the oral arguments.

Solicitor General Jose Calida himself was present but did not grant interviews to the media.

Calleja said all the parties agreed to the 21 issues earlier identified by the Supreme Court in its advisory to parties last week.

Substantive issues include the definitions of terrorism and related offenses which petitioners claimed are vague and are too broad that they could cover legitimate actions. 

The powers of the Anti-Terrorism Council will also be scrutinized, with the Court looking into its authority to: designate terrorists, approve requests for designation by other jurisdictions, apply for proscription of terrorists before the Court of Appeals, authorize arrest and detention without judicial warrant and based only on mere suspicion, among others, as well as the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s authority to examine and freeze bank deposits and other assets.

Other issues include the conduct of surveillance on suspected terrorists, the proscription or seeking of a court declaration outlawing individuals or certain groups as terrorists, the extended detention period of up to 24 days if arrest is authorized by the ATC, and the restriction on the right to travel.

Among the preliminary issues are the legal standing or capacity of petitioners to sue and if a temporary restraining order (TRO) or status quo ante order (SQAO) should be issued.

But petitioners are still asking the Supreme Court to reconsider the initial 30-minute limit given to each side to argue all 21 issues.

This would mean only some and not all of the lawyers for the 37 petitions will be able to argue in front of magistrates.

Colmenares said they are asking for at least 45 minutes to an hour per side.

Petitioners also ask the high court to allow at least 1 lawyer to represent each petitioner during the oral arguments even if they may not be able to speak or argue in open court.

“We are still proposing na halimbawa, kung ilan man ang arguers namin, halimbawa, walo. Sana yung ibang counsel nandun din sa loob, at least one per petition, kasi kaya naman e,” Colmenares said.

“Kasi kung may interpellation at hindi mo petisyon yun, sana naman nandiyan siya para…kasi 37 yan e,” he added.

“We at least have 1 lawyer per petitioner. Basta ang importante, every petitioner is represented. ‘Yan ang importante,” Calleja added.

Calleja said the high court will also study whether to allow hybrid proceedings with some appearing in person while others via videoconference to accommodate those who could not travel to Manila for the oral arguments.

But he said some justices have made known their view that the oral arguments is really meant to be addressed to the justices, not the public, although the public and the media will still be able to tune in via audio-streaming, as was done in the past.

Five justices attended the preliminary conference led by Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.

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