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Lawmakers critical of Duterte join calls versus anti-terror law

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PHILSTAR/BOY SANTOS

OPPOSITION LAWMAKERS on Sunday joined the dissent against a stronger anti-terror measure that President Rodrigo R. Duterte enacted last week, saying it arms the government to violate human rights and stifle dissent.

“With legal challenges expected to reach it, I call on our Supreme Court to protect our democracy and invalidate this legal abomination before Mr. Duterte, and other tyrants that might follow him,” Senator Leila M. de Lima, a staunch critic of the President, said in a statement.

She said the law could “inflict further oppression and repression upon our people.”

Mr. Duterte signed the bill into law on Friday amid criticisms from militant groups and calls from his allies to review the measure.

A group of lawyers led by Howard M. Calleja asked the Supreme Court at the weekend to void the law that they said was “repugnant and perilous to the constitutional rights of every citizen.”

The Anti-Terrorism Act neither contained compelling state interests nor did it show “that the least intrusive means were undertaken,” according to an excerpt of the lawsuit posted by the lawyers on Facebook.

The group, which asked the tribunal to stop the enforcement of the law, said they sent the petition to the high court by electronic filing and would submit a printed copy on July 6.

Named respondents were Cabinet officials including the heads of the Foreign Affairs, Defense, Interior and Local Government, Finance and Justice departments.

Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman said the law had repressive provisions. “The new Anti-Terrorism law must be cleansed of its constitutional infirmities notwithstanding the say-so of its implementors,” he said in a statement.

“It is incumbent upon the Supreme Court to use the scalpel of judicial review to excise the numerous oppressive and unconstitutional provisions of the new law in its adjudication of relevant petitions,” he added.

The law allows an anti-terror Council made up of Cabinet officials to perform acts that are otherwise reserved for courts, such as ordering the arrest of suspected terrorists. It also allows the state to keep a suspect in jail without an arrest warrant for 14 days from three days now.

It also 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.

“The palace will leave it to the Supreme Court to decide on these petitions and will abide by whatever the ruling is,” Presidential Spokesman Harry L. Roque said in a statement on Sunday.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, who was also named a respondent in the lawsuit, said the government would face the legal challenge.

“Our legal team is ready and the President studied that thoroughly,” he told DZBB radio on Sunday.

Mr. Esperon said the rules that will enforce the law would contain safeguards against abuse.

The law will take effect 15 days after it is published. The rules must come out within three months.

The House of Representatives last month adopted the Senate version of the bill that it approved in February.

The measure would have lapsed into law on July 9 had Mr. Duterte failed to sign or veto it. — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Gillian M. Cortez





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