Anti-terror law scored in suit filed opposition solon

REPLETE with constitutional infirmities.

This is how Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman described the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020 as he made good his promise to question the newly-signed law in the high tribunal.

Lagman is the first legislator to challenge the constitutionality of the “Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020” before the Supreme Court when he filed yesterday a 55-page petition for certiorari and prohibition which was docketed as G.R. No. 252579.

The opposition lawmaker asked the SC for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a writ of preliminary injunction to prevent the enforcement of the challenged law pending adjudication .

Lagman said that “what the government must pursue is the apprehension, prosecution and conviction, once warranted, of terrorists without ensnaring into contrived culpability persons who simply exercise free speech and peaceful assembly.”

Likewise the solon said that contrary to the claims of some of the authors, the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) cannot rectify the deficiencies and excesses in the new law because the IRR cannot modify, amend or repeal a statute.

The Bicol solon underscored in his petition that “the derogation of freedom is not the price of security and peace, but the precursor of people’s unrest and righteous resistance.”

Lagman explained that the gravamen of the unconstitutionality of the new anti-terrorism law is its wanton derogation of human rights, civil liberties and fundamental freedoms.

Among the unconstitutional provisions of the new law which Lagman cited are:

(1)      The redefinition of the crime of terrorism is cast in vague and ambiguous language so much so that there is no certitude on what acts are proscribed and the people are perplexed on what acts to avoid.

(2)      The indispensable element of political or ideological motive has been deleted which compounds the incompleteness and imprecision of the new law even as it facilitates the arrest, prosecution, and conviction of suspects.

(3)       The criminalization of “threat”, “proposal”, and “inciting” to commit terrorism has chilling effects deterring the exercise of the right to free speech and dissent.

(4)       The imposition of a maximum of 24 days of prolonged detention of a suspect without a judicial warrant or without charging him before a judicial authority is an unreasonable seizure of a person in violation of the Bill of Rights.
(5)      A maximum of 90 days technical surveillance and wiretapping of communications is an unreasonable invasion of a person’s privacy which is guaranteed by the Constitution.

(6)      An inordinately long maximum of six-months investigation of a suspect’s bank accounts and the freezing of his assets, both without judicial authorization, and the open-ended freezing of property or funds in certain circumstances, constitute unreasonable seizure of one’s assets.

(7)       The designation of a person or association as a terrorist without judicial intervention or authorization infringes on the freedom of association and due process.

(8)       The grant of judicial powers to the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) violates the doctrine of separation of powers.

He added that the so-called safeguards in the “Ant-Terrorism Act of 2020” are mere motherhood declarations which are eroded by oppressive provisions and a killer proviso that negates any concession to advocacy and dissent.