16 youth groups asks SC to strike down several provisions of Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020

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Supreme Court of the Philippines

Sixteen youth groups on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to strike down several provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA).

Young human rights defenders, good governance and climate justice advocates, and university student councils filed the 14th petition against the law.

Groups including Kabataang Tagapagtanggol ng Karapatan and Youth for Human Rights and Democracy said the language of the ATA, including its definitions of the crimes of terrorism and inciting to terrorism, are vague.

“As it is written under the Anti-Terror Law, any form of speech may possibly be punished in connection to terrorism,” the petitioners said.

They  argued that the ATA does not provide any metric for which speech or speech-related conduct creates a “serious risk to public safety.”

“Neither is there any definition or simple qualifier as to the definition of serious risk, nor a measurement for the intent of the person expressing such speech,” they said.

In addition, they said Section 29 of the law, which allows the warrantless arrest of terrorism suspects and their detention of up to 24 days before they have to be charged in court, violates the right to due process.

The petitioners said Section 29 authorizes law enforcement and the military to make arrests “based on mere suspicion and solely at the executive’s whim and caprice.”

Petitioners argued that only the courts have the power to issue warrants of arrest.

Petitioners also claimed that the law violates due process by providing the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), a body composed of executive officials, the power to “designate” individuals or groups as terrorists upon a finding of probable cause that they committed, are attempting to commit, or conspired to commit terrorism and other related crimes.

The petitioners said this gives the ATC the powers of a judge and jury “when, in fact, none of its members are qualified to act as neither.”

In all, the youth groups asked the SC to declare Sections 4,5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 25, and 29 of the law as unconstitutional. They also asked for a temporary restraining order to prevent the enforcement of these provisions while the case is pending.

Retired SC justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio Morales, four members of the commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution, law professors, lawyers, human rights advocates, labor groups, journalists and artists are among those who challenged the anti-terrorism law.

The SC has ordered the consolidation of the first eight petitions./Stacy Ang

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