As anti-terror law challenge mounts, Palace says laws passed by Congress presumed constitutional

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 06 2020 05:15 PM

Students gather to protest against an anti-terrorism bill during the “Grand Mañanita” protest at the University of the Philippines on June 12, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - Laws passed by Congress have a "very heavy" presumption of constitutionality, Malacañang said Monday as the newly-signed Anti-Terrorism Act faces legal challenges at the Supreme Court.

At least four groups have filed petitions before the high tribunal questioning the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

"Ang general rule po is every law passed by Congress enjoys the very heavy presumption of constitutionality," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, also a lawyer, said during a Palace press briefing.

"Hayaan na po natin ang proseso na umusad sa ating Korte Suprema bagama't pwede rin pong sabihin na nirerespeto po paulit-ulit ng Korte Suprema ang produkto ng mga halal na mambabatas," he added.

(Let the Supreme Court process it but we can say that the high court has repeatedly respected the products of our elected officials.)

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday signed the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, just days before it was to lapse into law and while the country is in the middle of its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

While the law has yet to take effect, several rights groups have already called out its provisions on fears that the measure could be used to silence government critics.

Opposition Sen. Francis Pangilinan on Sunday said he would join the chorus of the law's critics before the high court.

"We have to exhaust all remedy. Whether we win or not, is another thing altogether, but we have to fight," he said in a radio interview.

"Sabi ko nga, hindi pa tapos ang boksing at tuloy-tuloy ang ating pagtutol dito at pinaghahandaan natin ang pagsampa ng isang petisyon sa Korte Suprema."

(As I said, the fight is not over yet and we continue to oppose this by preparing for the filing of a petition before the Supreme Court.)

Roque, however, noted that the law was a product of Congress.

"Ang anti-terror bill po ay isang produkto ng Kongreso kabahagi po ang Senado. Hindi ko po maintindihan bakit maaanghang ang salita ni Sen. Francis Pangilinan samantalang kasama niya sa Senado ang nagsulong ng batas na ito," the Palace spokesman said.

(The anti-terror bill is a product of Congress including the Senate. I cannot understand Sen. Francis Pangilinan's words when it is a fact that his colleagues in Senate supported this measure.)

The law is expected to take effect next week.