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All systems go for SC oral arguments on anti-terror law

IT’S all systems go for the conduct of oral arguments into at least 37 petitions challenging the legality of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 before the Supreme Court this coming January 19.

This was after the high court yesterday released several guidelines that will govern the oral argument proceedings.

In the guidelines, petitioners and respondents, through their respective counsels, shall each have a total of 45 minutes per side to present their arguments.

As per agreement reached among petitioners’ counsels during the preliminary conference conducted last November 26, as approved by the court, only eight (8) presenting lawyers from petitioners’ side shall be physically present at the en banc session hall during the oral arguments.

Only one counsel per petition, if not among the presenting lawyers, will be allowed to physically attend the oral arguments and are required to submit a manifestation to this effect by January 13, 2021.

Also, all persons shall be required to present a negative COVID RT-PCR taken within 72 hours prior to the oral arguments.

The Solicitor General is directed to bring with him during oral arguments not more than three lawyers who would be able to competently argue on the issues.

The interpellations by members of the court shall immediately follow after the presentation of each side.

President Duterte signed a stricter anti-terrorism bill, condemned by critics and rights groups as a weapon to target opponents and stifle free speech.

Duterte has defended the law, saying law-abiding citizens should not fear as it targets terrorists including communist insurgents.

The highly contested provisions of the law are the following:

• section 4 – definition of terrorism;

• section 5 – the threat to commit terrorism;

• section 6 – planning, training, preparing and facilitating the commission of terrorism;

• section 9 – inciting to commit terrorism;

• section 10 – recruitment to and membership in a terrorist organization;

• section 11 – foreign terrorist;

• section 12 – providing material support to terrorists.

• section 25 – designation of terrorist individual, groups of persons, organizations or associations;

• section 26 – proscription of terrorist organizations, associations or group of persons;

• section 27 – preliminary order of proscription

• section 29 – detention without judicial warrant of arrest.