MORE petitions were filed before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, questioning the constitutionality of Republic Act 11479, or the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020.
The 12th group of petitioners were led by 1986 Constitutional Commission members Dr. Florangel Rosario-Braid and Prof. Edumundo Garcia.
The petitioners asked the High Tribunal to issue a temporary restraining order, or a preliminary injunction, or both, until the magistrates decides on the main plea, which is to declare the entire law, or some of its provisions unconstitutional for violating the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of expression and the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.
They also asked the Court to set the case for oral argument and after due proceedings and issue the TRO, injunction, and temporary protection orders permanent.
The other co-petitioners include lawmakers Rep. Kit Belmonte, Senators Leila de Lima and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, former Senators Sergio Osmeña III and Wigberto “Bobby” Tañada, and former Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada and former Akbayan party-list Rep. Etta Rosales; journalists Ceres Doyo, Lilibeth Frondoso, Chay Hofileña, Rachel Khan, Jo-Ann Maglipon, John Nery, Beatrice Puente (Philippine Collegian editor-in-chief), Maria Ressa, and Maritess Danguilan-Vitug; former Senate Secretary Lutgardo Barbo and law professor Chel Diokno.
They argued that the definition of terrorism under the law is “vague and overbroad” which may be used as “a weapon against constitutionally protected speech and speech-related conduct.”
The ATA’s definition of terrorism, according to the petitioners, encompasses speech and conduct protected by the Constitution including non-violent assemblies like the 1986 People Power.
“Calling on the people to exercise this fundamental right is speech that is clearly protected by the Constitution. And yet, it would fall under acts that would constitute inciting to terrorism as defined in the ATA,” the petitioners said.
“In the same vein, calling on the people to peaceably assemble to support a call for the President to step down, or for Congress to remove him because he is physically or mentally unfit to govern, is protected speech that would also be swept into the definition of inciting to terrorism,” they added.
Named respondents are Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan II, Anti-Money Laundering Council Executive Director Mel Georgie Racela, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, the Anti-Terrorism Council, and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.
Since President Duterte signed the ATA last July 3, a total of 15 petitions have been filed before the SC seeking to declare ATA as unconstitutional.
Also on Wednesday, several journalists led by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) filed the 13th petitions against the ATA.
The group also questioned the vague definition of the crime of terrorism, which they claimed is violative of the freedom of speech and expression.
They claimed that ATA violates the right to liberty without due process of law and the doctrine of separation of powers.
On the other hand, youth groups such as the Kabataang Tagapagtanggol ng Karapatan, Youth for Human Rights and Democracy, Youth Act Now Against Tyranny, Millennials PH, Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan, Good Gov PH, Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines, Liberal Youth of the Philippines, Aksyon Kabataan, La Salle Debate Society, DLSU University Student Government, Sanggunian ng mga Mag-Aaral ng Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila, UP Diliman University Student Council, University of Santo Tomas Central Student Council and Student Council Alliance filed the 14thpetition questioning the constitutionality of ATA.
“Thus, the Youth Petitioners submit that the Anti-Terror Law may validly be challenged on its face because, if applied, the law is poised to infringe upon acts which fall under the exercise of freedom of expression—activities which are otherwise constitutionally protected,” the petitioners said in a 47-page petition.
The youth petitioners are being represented by lawyer Dino de Leon.
The 15thgroup of petitioners against ATA are composed of Muslim human rights lawyers ’ Algamar Latih, Bantuas Lucman, Musa Malayang and Dalomilang Parahiman.
They claimed that while the ATA is laudable, it has provisions that “undermine the safety and interest of the people that it seeks to protect from terrorism.”
“The vague provisions would victimize innocent people; they will be at the mercy of the preconceived notion of the law enforcers interpreting the provisions of RA 11479. Ordinary people would not have sufficient guidance from the law on what specific acts are prohibited,” they stressed.
The petition, according to the petitioners, is being filed to shield the Bangsamoro people from possible abuses and injustices in the enforcement of RA 11479.
“We want nothing more but peace for our native land. To attain that, the laws against terrorism should stand the scrutiny of constitutionality so that innocent people are protected; so that terrorism is effectively suppressed; so that terrorists are punished; and so that justice and rule of law prevailed,” the petitioners said in a 79-page petition.
SC spokesman Brian Hosaka said there are already 16 petitions questioning the constitutionality of ATA.
He said a certain Jose Ferrer filed a petiton vs ATA earlier.