2 Aetas ask SC to ‘prevent threatened wrong,’ declare terror law unconstitutional

Progressives reiterate their demand for the scrapping of Terror Law. (Photo by Carlo Manalansan / Bulatlat)

In their petition, the two Aetas decried that the law’s definition of terrorism is “impermissibly vague.” They also argued that it is “overly broad that it sweepingly stifles even innocent and legitimate acts, including the exercise of protected freedoms.”

By JONAS ALPASAN
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – In the morning of the Supreme Court oral arguments on the Philippine terror law, two indigenous peoples who were the first charged with violating the law asked the high court to “prevent a threatened wrong” by declaring it unconstitutional, citing the horrendous torture they suffered from the hands of government troops as they were forced to admitting they are New People’s Army fighters.

Asking the high court to issue a writ of a preliminary injunction are Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos, the two Aetas who were charged with multiple criminal charges and for violating the terror law last year. The charges stemmed from an alleged gunfight between government troops and members of the New People’s Army on Aug. 21, 2020 in San Marcelino, Zambales.

Gurung and Ramos, in their petition, denied the military allegations, saying they were evacuating their community as they were afraid of getting caught in the crossfire. They were mauled, denied sleep, and Gurung was forced to eat his own feces.

Read: Aetas tortured by military, forced to eat soldier’s feces

Both of them, the petition adds, “are now under threat of being imprisoned for life without the benefit of parole under a void and unconstitutional law.” Issuing an injunctive relief for the two Aetas, who may stand to be first casualties of the terror law, can “prevent the threatened wrong, further injury and irreparable harm or injustice to them and scores of others until the rights of the parties in these cases are ultimately settled.”

In their petition, the two Aetas decried that the law’s definition of terrorism is “impermissibly vague.” They also argued that it is “overly broad that it sweepingly stifles even innocent and legitimate acts, including the exercise of protected freedoms.”

Gurung and Ramos argued that the “firing and shooting” is too “equivocal” to signify the “intent to cause serious bodily harm, death or endangerment of persons together with the purpose of intimidating the general public, spreading a message of fear or seriously undermining public safety,” per the law’s definition of terrorism.

Read: Then and now, indigenous peoples fighting for ancestral lands charged with terrorism

There is also no clear guide for law enforcers to define how a certain atmosphere or message can be identified as causing fear. In this case, the two argued that it was actually the soldiers who also had a hand in causing intimidation, having admitted that they were involved in the purported gunfight near a civilian community.

Gurung and Ramos are still detained at the Olangapo City Jail. They have been earlier arraigned before a local court, where they pleaded not guilty.

They were assisted by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers – Central Luzon in their petition as intervenors before the Supreme Court.

The Philippine terror law was passed amid increasing criticism on the government’s poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Critics said this will be used to quell dissent and further violate human rights. It stands as the most contested law before the Supreme Court. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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