Nationwide round-up

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Journalist, non-profit groups among latest to file petition vs anti-terrorism law

THE CENTER for International Law, Inc., together with a group of law professors, journalists, and a non-profit organization, filed the 27th petition before the Supreme Court questioning the validity of the Anti-Terrorism Act. The petitioners include Foundation for Media Alternatives, Inc.,, Inc, VERA Files, Inc., and  law professors from the Lyceum of the Philippines, among others. Similar to the earlier filings, they argued that the law, which took effect last July 18, contained provisions that infringe on fundamental rights in the Constitution such as the right to freedom of speech, the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances, and the right to freedom of association. They also pointed out that acts that can be penalized under the law are “incomprehensible and overbroad,” it said, noting that “mere thought and inception of an idea in a person” fall under the definition of terrorism in the law. “Never has intent alone been a level of culpability punishable by penal statutes because our laws have always required overt illegal acts to be the standard when it comes to punishment,” the lawsuit read. Petitioners said they they do not dispute that terrorism must be stopped, “but to direct government and citizens alike to a clearer and firmer conviction about the very purposes of government and the State, at a time when freedoms are denied in the name of national security.” — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

DFA reports 5 more injured Filipinos in Beirut blast

FIVE MORE overseas Filipinos in Beirut were reported to have been injured in the Aug. 4 explosion, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed on Monday. “We are still thankful that the injuries sustained by our kababayans are not life-threatening,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Sarah Lou Y. Arriola said in a statement. This brings the total number of injured persons to 47 as of Aug. 10. In its previous report, the DFA said there were two other Filipinos missing, while four have died. The explosion occurred at a port warehouse that stored 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a substance used for fertilizers and explosives, according to reports. The department is set to bring home the remains of the four victims on Aug. 16. The repatriation flight will also transport some 400 overseas workers in Lebanon. Ms. Arriola said the repatriation expense will be shouldered by the government. The Department of Labor and Employment announced Sunday that P5 billion more has been allotted to fund  repatriation efforts off the government. About 32,000 Filipinos are in Lebanon, down from 33,000 in December after some of them came home amid the global coronavirus pandemic. —  Charmaine A. Tadalan