DOJ chief welcomes challenge to new terror law

July 05, 2020
Menardo Guevarra

JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday welcomed the filing of a petition questioning the legality of the newly-signed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

In a message, Guevarra described the petition, which was electronically-filed by a group of lawyers last Saturday, as a "positive development."

"The filing of this and similar petitions has been expected. This is a positive development, as it provides all parties concerned the appropriate forum for the resolution of all the legal and constitutional issues involved, with finality," Guevarra said. 

Last Saturday, the first petition against the controversial law was filed via electronic mail before the Supreme Court by a group of lawyers led by Ateneo and La Salle law professor and lecturer Atty. Howard “Howie” M. Calleja. 

The group said that they would physically file the petition for certiorari and prohibition today, Monday. 

Signed by President Duterte on July 3, the new law will take effect on July 19.

In the interim, the group asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order while the petition is being heard by the SC. 

The group sought to stop “all respondents or any person, entity, member, officer, employee, representative or agent acting singly or collectively with them, from enforcing the above-mentioned sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act. "

Apart from Calleja, UP Law Professor Christopher John P. Lao, Dr. Reynaldo J. Echavez, Napoleon L. Siongco, Raeyan M. Reposar, civic groups Frontliners: Tunay na Bayani and Bagong Siklab Pilipinas, as well as Br. Armin A. Luistro, FSC, of the De La Salle Brothers, Inc. signed the petition. 

On the other hand, named respondents were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, the secretaries of defense, the interior, finance, justice, and information and communications technology, and the executive director of the Anti-Money Laundering Council. 

"The group advocates a just and humane law that is for the benefit of all Filipinos. While threats to our national security need to be addressed, the law, as crafted, is oppressive and inconsistent with our constitution, hence, the petition. This fight against Terrorism should not and should never be a threat to the fundamental freedoms of all peaceful Filipinos," the group said in a statement. 

The group expressed concern that the new legislation may be "used by the government to weaponize itself for state-sponsored repression that makes a mockery of the rule of law.”

“Through the Anti-Terrorism Law, the President, with Congress, has paved the way for a legal framework that would allow the government to go against its own people,” the group said.

“The Anti-Terrorism Law effectively strengthened the powers of the Executive by granting powers inherent in the Judiciary, making the Executive the judge, jury, and executioner,” it added.

In particular, the group wants SC to nullify Sections 3,4,5,9,10,16,17,25,26,29, and 54 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, for being repugnant to the 1987 Philippine Constitution.