Duterte’s former gov’t corporate counsel files 5th petition questioning Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020; 6th petition also filed within the day (update)

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President Rodrigo Duterte’s former government corporate counsel on Wednesday filed the 5th petition that questions  the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

Rudolf Philip Jurado, former chief of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC), accused the House of Representatives of skirting the rules on passing a bill and of encroaching judicial functions.

Jurado also asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the implementation of the new law.  The new law is expected to take effect by the end of the month.

In his petition, Jurado said the House of Representatives did not follow the constitutional requirement of giving all House members printed copies of the bill in its final form three days before its passage to allow them time to study it.

Instead, relying on a certification from Duterte that the bill was urgent, the House of Representatives on June 2 passed House Bill 6875 on second reading, adopting entirely the Senate version of the bill and on the next day, passed it on third reading.

Jurado said that as a result, some House members were not even informed how the Senate version “ambiguously defined” terrorism, as shown by retractions of some lawmakers of their “Yes” vote.

He said that the lower House was wrong in relying on the President’s certification because it was not issued “to meet a public calamity or emergency” as required under the 1987 Constitution.

The proper procedure, he explained, was for the House to furnish its members copies of the final bill and wait for three days after the 2nd reading.

Jurado also claimed Congress gravely abused its discretion when it granted the Anti-Terrorism Council the power to waive a person’s constitutional rights to liberty, speedy disposition of the case, and presumption of innocence without the person’s knowledge and consent.

He was referring to section 29 of the Anti-Terrorism Act allowing the council to authorize law enforcers to detain suspects without charge longer than what is provided in Art. 125 of the Revised Penal Code, or between 12 to 36 hours depending on the nature of the offense.

Section 29 allows detention without charge for 14 days, which may be extended for 10 days.

Under the Constitution, a person could only be detained without charge within 3 days, even under when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended.

Jurado said that while the accused may waive this right to be detained for no longer than 36 hours should they request for a preliminary investigation, this waiver is for the accused to exercise, not for the ATC to waive.

Jurado likewise warned against the danger that the extended period for detention could apply to non-terrorism-related cases, and Congress may be rewarding inefficient law enforcers more time to conduct their investigation at the expense of the detainees.

Jurado said that Congress, in passing section 29, effectively repealed Art. 125 of the Revised Penal Code which it could not do because it is not “germane” to the subject matter of the Anti-Terrorism Act. The Constitution requires that every bill should embrace only 1 subject.

Neither can Congress effectively amend the Rules of Court provision on warrantless arrest by allowing the Anti-Terrorism Council to authorize arrests without warrant of persons suspected of committing terrorist acts, because the said function belongs to the Supreme Court, Jurado said.

This violates the doctrine of separation of powers between the Legislature and the Judiciary.

Jurado also questioned the definition of terrorism under section 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Act which includes any person who “engages in acts intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to any person, or endangers a person’s life.”

“This definition laid down by Congress is definitely vague and ambiguous which could lead to several abuses and misinterpretations. Mere intent to kill or intent to cause bodily harm could not, as it should not, be tantamount to an act of terrorism,” he said.

Duterte appointed Jurado to head the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel in April 2017 but fired him in a televised speech on May 28, 2018 supposedly for favoring the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone in granting a 75-year casino permit.

Jurado has denied approving the permit, saying he only issued a legal opinion based on APECO’s amended charter.

Before his OGCC stint, Jurado was known as lawyer for actor Robin Padilla.

Two members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission and several advocates from the Ateneo De Manila University have challenged the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 before the Supreme Court (SC).

Fr. Albert Alejo, Xavier University law professor Ernesto Neri, and student Wyanet Aisha Eliora Alcibar were also petitioners.

The group asked the SC to declare several sections of the law unconstitutional and void and to permanently prohibit the government from implementing them.

They questioned the definition of terrorism in Section 4 as well as subsequent sections that use the definition to hold persons liable, arguing it is “broad enough to cover legitimate acts and exercise of activities in pursuance of constitutionally protected rights to free speech, press and assembly.” / Stacy Ang

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