By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The fight is not yet over.
Twenty-six groups of petitioners against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2021 are asking the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision on the ATA as they filed their motion for reconsideration on Wednesday, March 2.
“This is the true unity. We come together to ask the SC to take a second look on their decision,” Howard Calleja, counsel and petitioner, said in a press briefing following the filing at the SC.
“All the foregoing, we plead as one the Honorable Court — without prejudice to the submission of separate or supplemental motions or pleadings by respective Petitioners — to revisit and to take an even closer look particularly on the critical questions and issues of a perfidious legislation that transgresses the Constitution and terrifies, torments and terrorizes its own people,” the joint motion for reconsideration read.
It would be remembered that last year, the SC declared the ATA constitutional except for portions of two provisions. The full decision was released last month.
However, Calleja said that these are not enough.
“There are many provisions in the law that, in our opinion, are unconstitutional,” he said.
In its motion for reconsideration, the petitioners asserted that the following are unconstitutional:
– Third paragraph of Section 10 which provides penalties for the recruitment and membership in a proscribed terrorist organization is unconstitutional for being vague, overbroad, and for failing to meet the scrutiny test.
– The third mode of designation under the third paragraph of Section 25 or the Anti-Terrorism Council’s (ATC) power to arbitrarily designate individuals and organizations as well as to issue arrest warrants.
– Section 29 of the ATA or the expanded period of warrantless detention for suspected terrorists to a maximum of 24 days.
Read: Justices grill government lawyers on Anti-Terror Act’s ‘vagueness’
Petitioners raise longer detention without charges under terror law
Anti-Terror Council’s ‘undue delegation of power’ questioned
“The very Constitution that this Honorable Court protects and serves is the same one that was heavily inspired by the desire of the Filipino people to never again be subjected to the abuses that characterized the Marcos ‘constitutional authoritarianism’ – a dictatorship that was able to perpetuate atrocities to basic civil and political rights due to the executive’s unchecked powers,” the resolution said.
It added, “Considering the exceedingly transcendental importance of the matter at hand and how it impacts on the sacred values enshrined in our Constitution, Petitioners pray that this Honorable Court revisits with an even closer look and reconsiders its judicial sanction to a law so monstrous and pernicious it will devour us all down the road in the end.”
Antonio La Viña, counsel for indigenous peoples, said the ATA, if not declared as unconstitutional, has deadly consequences. He cited the case of Chad Booc, volunteer teacher for Lumad schools and a petitioner against the ATA. He said that Booc, whom he knew personally, was constantly targeted by state forces, tagged as a member of “a terrorist group” until he was killed.
“He is one of the best and the brightest. He is a hero,” La Viña said.
La Viña added that this is why it is important for the SC to reconsider its decision on the ATA which gives permission to the government to designate a person as “terrorist” without due process.
Another counsel for the petitioners, Ephraim Cortez, said that a law that allows designation of terrorists without basis or allow warrantless arrests which goes against the rules of court is unconstitutional.
“This kind of law cannot be defended especially with the recent incidents, like the arrest of an activist based on a stale warrant. This is what we foresee if this law will not be declared as unconstitutional. We know that dissenters and critics of the government will be the ones who will be targeted by this law,” Cortez said, referring to the arrest of Makabayan-Cagayan Valley regional coordinator Agnes Mesina.
In a statement, Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan and a petitioner against the ATA, said that as long as the ATA remains in place they fear that attacks and red-tagging will escalate and worsen, and even claim more lives.
“As we join the other petitioners in filing this joint motion for reconsideration, we implore the Supreme Court to act now. We call on our judges to uphold our basic rights and freedoms, and to stand with the people in the urgent call to junk the terror law,” Palabay said.
ATA as an election issue
La Viña said that the people should know where the candidates stand on the ATA.
He said that the situation will be worse if the law will not be declared unconstitutional especially if “political officials will not bring in rain in the military.”
“It will be a full throttle fascism,” he added.
Lawyer Virginia Lacsa Suarez also said that candidates should be challenged to make a position on the ATA.
“People’s lives and our liberty is at stake here. We cannot just imagine if another Duterte or another Marcos would be in a position and then we have this Anti-Terror law. All the more that the definition of terrorism should be well defined. Making it flexible means giving more discretion to the military or police officers. And that discretion can always be subject to abuse,” she said.
Senatorial candidate and also counsel for the petitioners Neri Colmenares meanwhile said it would be dangerous if Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will win the presidency.
He said Marcos will compromise many democratic ideals of the people. It will also impact the judiciary, and the Anti-Terrorism Council.
“A person who believes that martial law is a golden era is very dangerous because he might implement it again,” he said.