Consti framers, lawmakers, rights defenders to High Court: Stop law that removes your powers

July 23, 2020


Consti framers, lawmakers, rights defenders to High Court: Stop law that removes your powers


Two framers of the 1987 Constitution, seven lawmakers, eight journalists, and three human rights defenders on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA, Republic Act 11479) that removes several constitutional powers of the high tribunal.

“Ostensibly meant to serve the narrow and specific state policy of fighting terrorism, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (hereafter, ATA) nevertheless hands to government a sledgehammer, a blunt instrument  that may easily be wielded to batter down the constitutional guardrails protecting the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances, and ultimately, terrorize the sovereign people into silence and servility,” the petition reads.

The nth group of petitioners who are also seeking to declare the entire law unconstitutional includes: Constitutional Commission of 1986 members Dr. Florangel Rosario-Braid and Prof. Edumundo Garcia; 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 Vitug; former Senate secretary Lutgardo Barbo and law professor Chel Diokno.

In a 73-page plea, they asked the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction or both while the case is pending, to halt the implementation of the law, including the crafting of the implementing rules and regulations.

They asked the high court to set the case for oral argument, and after due proceedings, make the TRO, injunction, and temporary protection orders permanent, thus annulling and setting aside the law for being void and unconstitutional and prohibiting the respondents and their agents or representatives from implementing RA 11479.

Respondents include Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior and Local Government 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 and Management Secretary Wendel Avisado, the Anti-Terrorism Council, and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA).

The Duterte government’s poor human rights record has amplified apprehensions over the new law. Its drug war has killed over 8,000 Filipinos since 2016, with “near-impunity,” according to a United Nations report in June. Senator de Lima has been in jail for almost 3 1/2 years now based on politically motivated charges.

Recently, the government shut down broadcaster ABS-CBN. It has prosecuted petitioner Maria Ressa, CEO of the news website Rappler, for cyber libel, which ended with her conviction. Both outlets have aggressively reported on Duterte’s leadership.

Amid the pandemic, the government has also jailed thousands of suspected violators and protesters of a lockdown to contain the rapid spread of the coronavirus.