By JONAS ALPASAN
MANILA – Petitioners seeking to strike down the Anti-Terror Law said the country would not be left defenseless if the high court declares the law unconstitutional, highlighting the role of good policing and intelligence work to quell a terror attack.
“Even if you pass 10 more anti-terror laws, nothing will happen [without good policing and intelligence work],” said human rights lawyer and former lawmaker Neri Colmenares during the fourth oral arguments before the Supreme Court today, March 2.
Colmenares explained that those in favor of the law could not identify specific clauses, except for one provision, in the old terror law — the Human Security Act of 2007 — that could have prevented the likes of a Marawi siege from happening.
Law enforcers claimed that the P500,000 (US$10,302.50) daily penalty for wrongful detention, which is no longer part of the amended law, prevented them from stopping the Marawi attacks.
Petitioners also highlighted the unbridled discretion that the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020 provides to law enforcers.
During the interpellation, Associate Justice Edgardo delos Santos asked Colmenares if the high court should also strike down laws on anti-illegal drugs, following criticisms that the police are planting evidence. Colmenares, however, pointed out any law may be abused but what makes it unconstitutional is if it gives law enforcers unbridled discretion to enforce it.
Former Supreme Court spokesperson and also lawyer of the petitioners Theodore Te said a law’s vagueness and overbreadth come in when law enforcers have different interpretations of how it would be applied.
Petitioners have long argued that the new terror law suffers from overbreadth and impermissible vagueness, adding that it may cause more harm than the evil it is supposed to fight. They pointed out the powers provided to the Anti-Terrorism Council, which consists of members appointed by the president, can designate a group as a terrorist organization and order the arrest and detention of person up to 24 days without charges.
The intention of such provision, said lawmaker and lawyer Edcel Lagman, is to make another instance where warrantless arrest is allowed.