TWO MORE lawsuits have been filed at the Supreme Court (SC) questioning the legality of an expanded law against terror.
Former government lawyer Government Corporate Counsel Rudolf Philip A. Jurado filed the fifth petition, while the Ateneo de Manila University Human Rights Center filed the sixth suit.
Both asked the high court to stop the government from enforcing the law that President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed last week and void some of its provisions.
Critics have said the Anti-Terrorism Act arms the state to stifle dissent and violate human rights.
Also named respondents in Mr. Jurado’s lawsuit were the Senate and House of Representatives.
He said the House of Representatives did not provide printed copies of the bill to its members three days before its passage. Lawmakers had also failed to observe the rule of having the second and third readings three days apart, he added.
“Its members were ignorant of the bill’s contents (or, at the very least, the legal effects of its provisions that are not easily discernible at first instance), when they voted for its passage,” according to a copy of Mr. Jurado’s pleading.
Mr. Duterte defended the law against critics in a televised public address aired in the early hours of Wednesday, saying people who were not terrorists had nothing to be afraid of.
“Don’t be afraid if you don’t plan to destroy the government or bomb the church and public utilities,” he said in Filipino.
Meanwhile, Mr. Jurado said the House had gravely abused its discretion when it assumed that Mr. Duterte’s certification of the measure was enough to disregard the procedure.
The Ateneo Human Rights Center said the law’s definition of terrorism covered “consitutionally protected rights to free speech, press and assembly.”
“The overly broad definition of terrorism also clearly creates a chilling effect on free speech resulting in prior restraint,” it added.
The court on Tuesday gave the government 10 days to answer the four lawsuits that it had consolidated.
The law 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 created a council made up of Cabinet officials who can perform acts reserved for courts, such as ordering the arrest of suspected terrorists.
The law also allows the government to keep a suspect in jail without an arrest warrant for 14 days from three days now. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Gillian M. Cortez