Lawyers' group pleads to SC: Stop implementation of anti-terror law, IRR

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 26 2020 04:57 PM

Youth protesters picket in front of the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City on October 19, 2020, in support of farmers in time with peasant month. The Anti-Terror Council spokesperson said protests against the government and other civil and political exercises are not acts of terrorism. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers on Monday again urged the Supreme Court to address petitions against the anti-terror law following the release of its implementing rules and regulations.

The NUPL filed a manifestation with omnibus motion, informing the high court about the issuance of the IRR of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and reiterating its plea to immediately stop the enforcement of both.

“With all due respect, at this stage, in light of the issuance of the IRR, the dangers brought by the enforcement of R.A. 11479 could no longer be ignored. It constitutes a grave and immediate threat which the petitioners implore the Court to address by way of resolution of their pending applications for provisional injunctive relief,” the group said in its filing.

The NUPL filed the motion on behalf of its clients led by BAYAN Secretary General Renato Reyes, Jr.

NUPL said the law's IRR reproduced objectionable provisions of the ATA, such as the vague definition of terrorism and even expanded its scope and application.

Among the provisions the NUPL is opposing are the one qualifying protests as acts of terrorism if the intention is “to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person’s life, or to create a serious risk to public safety”; and the inclusion of “creative, artistic, cultural expression” as part of these acts.

The IRR, the group said, even extended the scope of intention to include other purposes set out for acts of terrorism, such as intimidating the general public and creating an atmosphere of fear.

The NUPL objected to the use of the “reasonable probability of success” test in inciting to commit terrorism, which, it says, is below the “clear and present danger” test used in freedom of expression cases. 

Under the “clear and present danger” test, the government may restrain speech if there is “substantial danger that the speech will likely lead to an evil the government has a right to prevent.” This requires “substantive” evil which is “extremely serious and the degree of imminence extremely high.”

NUPL President Edre Olalia told ABS-CBN News last week the “reasonable probability of success” test is more similar to the “dangerous tendency doctrine” that the courts no longer use, and which only requires a “rational connection” between the restrained speech and the evil sought to be avoided.

The group also claimed wide discretion is given to the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) to determine which are “impartial” humanitarian organizations that the State can recognize as not providing material support to terrorists.

The NUPL hit Rule 9.1 of the ATA IRR, the section which implements detention without judicial warrant of arrest. According to the group, it gives the ATC powers not just to order arrest, but also to issue documentation that would allow continued detention for up to 24 days without charge. 

Worse, the group said, warrantless arrests may be made based on suspicion even without written authority from the ATC, as long as it is presented before the end of the 18-36-hours currently provided under the law for detention due to warrantless arrest without charge.

Watch more in iWantTFC

ATC spokesperson DOJ Undersecretary Adrian Sugay earlier said the council would use probable cause to determine issuance of written authority, which he said is really intended to justify extended detention, since the ATA IRR limited the cases of warrantless arrests to those provided under existing rules.

The other provisions the NUPL is objecting to are the publication of the names of “terrorists”, and the 48-hour period before notifying the judge about a warrantless arrest.

The NUPL and BAYAN’s manifestation is so far the first submission filed before SC after the release of the IRR of the anti-terror law. 

No petition has so far alleged direct injury suffered as a result of the implementation of the ATA and its IRR.

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta on Friday said the justice in charge of the petition is currently sifting through the issues, classifying them among common and uncommon issues. The date of the oral arguments should be finalized by mid-November.

Peralta said they will most likely ask one petitioner to argue on behalf of other petitioners raising the same issues.

Watch more in iWantTFC

Integrated Bar of the Philippines National President Domingo Egon Cayosa praised Peralta for the “prompt action.”

He said the IBP facilitated a meeting among 37 petitioners on Saturday for coordination and orderly presentation of issues and arguments.

SC justices are currently on a 2-week writing break and will resume holding sessions on Nov. 3.

The release of the IRR of the ATA has raised concerns among human rights groups.

On Monday, Karapatan denounced the arrest of a human rights leader in the Cordillera early Sunday morning, allegedly following red-tagging by the military.

Police and military personnel arrested Beatrice “Betty” Belen, a member of the advisory council of Gabriela’s chapter in Cordillera, at around 4 a.m. in her home in Uma, Lubuagan, Kalinga, according to the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance and the Cordillera People’s Alliance.

Rights groups accused the military of planting firearms and explosives in the house of Belen, who is currently detained at the Kalinga Police Provincial Office.

They claimed soldiers from the 503rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army were going around the communities, saying that Belen and members of Innabuyog, Cordillera People’s Alliance and Timpuyog ti Mannalon iti Kalinga (TMK, or Peasant Association in Kalinga) are front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).

"The recent arrest of Beatrice Belen is a very clear example on the dangers of red-tagging, resulting in violations to the right to life, liberty and security of human rights defenders, including indigenous women human rights defenders who are fighting for their communities’ land, resources and rights," Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

"Like other activists who were arrested on questionable legal bases, Belen has asserted that those allegedly seized in her home were not hers nor of any member of her family."

In December 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte declared the CPP-NPA a terrorist organization. The government had also sought to judicially declare CPP and NPA terrorist organizations under the Human Security Act of 2007, which the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 repealed.

The country's Anti-Subversion Law, which outlawed membership with communist groups, was repealed in 1992.