FOUR MORE lawsuits have been filed questioning the validity of the government’s expanded law against terror at the Supreme Court.
Constitutional experts, lawmakers and human rights groups asked the tribunal to stop the government of President Rodrigo R. Duterte from enforcing the law, which they called a “weapon against constitutionally protected speech.”
The National Union of Journalists also filed a separate pleading asking the court to void the law, while youth groups filed their own. Muslim lawyers likewise questioned the legality of the law, bringing the total lawsuits against the Anti-Terrorism Act to 16.
Constitutional framers Florangel Rosario-Braid and Edumundo Garcia said the definition of the crime of terrorism is “breathtakingly vague and overbroad.”
They were joined by Senators Francis N. Pangilinan and Leila M. de Lima and Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Y. Belmonte, former Senators Sergio R. Osmeña III and Wigberto E. Tañada, former Deputy Speaker Lorenzo R. Tañada and former party-list Rep. Loretta Ann P. Rosales.
“Given the vagueness of the definition of terrorism in the assailed law, its enforcement and implementation will encroach on basic rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly freedom of speech and of expression,” according to a separate petition filed by the journalists.
They also said the law violates people’s right to due process and the separation of powers after a proposed Anti-Terror Council was empowered to order the arrest of suspected terrorists.
Students from the University of the Philippines Diliman, De La Salle University, Ateneo de Manila University and University of Santo Tomas said the law leads to a “chilling effect” by regulating protected speech.
“Public discontent against the ineptitude of the government in confronting the pandemic is already apparent,” according to a copy of their suit. “No one can and should blame the Filipino people for their tendency to express their discontent as they see more and more of their countrymen die or lose their livelihoods while government officials simply endeavor to further consolidate their power and selectively apply harsh laws to the powerless and uninfluential.”
Muslim lawyers said the intention of the law was “laudable” but it has provisions that undermine the safety of the people and has “vague provisions susceptible to multiple interpretations.” “The vague provisions would victimize innocent people,” they said.
The law, which took effect on July 18, considers attacks that cause death or serious injury, extensive damage to property and manufacture, possession, acquisition, transport and supply of weapons or explosives as terrorist acts.
It also allows the government to keep a suspect in jail without an arrest warrant for 14 days from three days previously.
Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said the government would draft the rules that will enforce the law. The Solicitor General on Thursday said the law could be enforced pending the rules.
“While there are provisions where operational details need to be spelled out or standards clearly defined in the implementing rules and regulations for the proper implementation of the law, there is no provision in the Anti-Terrorism Act that prohibits its implementation without it,” it said in a statement. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Charmaine A. Tadalan