Anti-Terror Council’s ‘undue delegation of power’ questioned

Progressives hold protest action outside the Supreme Court last Feb. 2, 2021 (Photo by Carlo Manalansan / Bulatlat)

Justice Edgardo Delos Santos questioned the “undue delegation of power” provided to the council, saying that the law is silent on how it will arrive at the conclusion in designating persons or groups as terrorists.

By JONAS ALPASAN
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – In today’s oral arguments on the Anti-Terror Act, the Supreme Court questioned what appeared to be “undue delegation of power” given to the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC).

The ATC, an executive body authorized by the Philippine terror law, has the power to designate persons or groups as terrorists, as well as to extend a suspected terrorists’ detention beyond what the Constitution provides even without charges.

Justice Edgardo Delos Santos questioned the “undue delegation of power” provided to the council, saying that the law is silent on how it will arrive at the conclusion in designating persons or groups as terrorists.

Justice Jhosep Lopez, formerly with the Court of Appeals, even pointed out that there were instances when the Anti-Money Laundering Council has, in the past, requested for the freezing of assets of certain groups that have not been identified as terrorists.

Read: The members of the Anti-Terrorism Council and their track record

Lopez questioned whether the terror designation equates to a penalty as that person or organization would already be perceived as a terrorist by the public.

Truth-tagging?

In this light, the high court asked the OSG on their stand on the red-tagging of community pantries.

Assistant Solicitor General Marissa Gandines said that what the government is doing is “truth tagging,” adding that they refuse to use the term “red-tagging” as it is purportedly coined by leftists.

The term red-tagging and red-baiting, however, was widely used in the U.S. in the 1950s when then Sen. Joseph McCarthy accused several government agencies as communist-infiltrated, a practice that is now known as McCarthyism.

In 2011, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen defined red baiting, as “the act of labelling, branding, naming and accusing individuals and/ or organizations of being left-leaning, subversives, communists or terrorists (used as) a strategy…by State agents, particularly law enforcement agencies and the military, against those perceived to be ‘threats’ or ‘enemies of the State.’

Local and international human rights organizations, including the United Nations, have repeatedly said that red-tagging leads to graver rights abuses such as arrests, disappearances, and killings.

Preventive measure?

However, the Office of the Solicitor General insists that the designation is a preventive measure.

Assistant Solicitor General Raymund Rigodon said that persons who have been designated as terrorists will be subjected to surveillance.

However, Galandines said that those who want to seek redress from the terror designation may do so before the Office of the President.

Government lawyers reiterated that as a remedy, a designated person may seek “delisting”. This, they pointed out, is in the implementing rules and regulations.

Such remedy, however, is completely absent in the law itself.

Similar to Martial Law

In last weeks’ oral arguments, one of the justices questioned the ATC’s power to extend the period of detention of a suspected terrorist.

Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang likened the authority to detain suspected terrorists for a longer period of time to that of the “arrest and seize order” issued by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos during the martial law years. This authority is blatantly given to the ATC by the questioned anti-terror law.

The next oral argument is set on Tuesday, May 11. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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