SC leaves 2020 anti-terrorism law almost intact

Kristine Joy Patag –

December 9, 2021 | 11:09 a.m.

Manila, Philippines (Updated at 11:34 am) – The Supreme Court declared parts of the dreaded 2020 counterterrorism law unconstitutional, a partial victory for 37 groups of petitioners who called for the entire law to be struck down, which is seen to have lasting effects on them. civil liberties in The Philippines.

The SC in a bench session on December 7 voted 12-3 to declare void parts of Article 4 which defines terrorism, in particular the clause qualifying “advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action and other similar exercises. civil and political rights “which cannot be considered terrorism.

The conditional clause reads “… which are not intended to cause death or serious physical injury to any person, endanger the life of any person or create a serious risk to public safety” and the Supreme Court’s Public Information Office said the court voted 12-3 to declare them unconstitutional “for being too broad and violating freedom of speech.”

The SC PIO said it was struck down and declared unconstitutional “for being too broad and violating freedom of expression”.

The petitioners wanted Section 4 in its entirety to be struck down, but lawyer Theodore Te said it still counts as “an important victory because it strengthens the civil liberties protections that the clause 4 clause excludes. “.


The court also voted 9-6 that allowing the Anti-Terrorism Council to adopt designation requests by other jurisdictions or supranational jurisdictions is unconstitutional, the second method of designation under the law.

Under Article 25 of the ATA, the Anti-Terrorism Council, upon discovering probable cause, may designate individuals, groups, organizations and associations, whether nationals or foreigners, as terrorists.

“The designation is without prejudice to the prohibition of terrorist organizations, associations or groups of persons under article 26 of this law”, specifies the provision.

One of the heavily contested parts of section 25, which the applicants wanted to see repealed in its entirety, is the power conferred on ATC under the section on designation of individuals or groups, “upon finding of probable cause ”is confirmed.

During oral argument, the judges argued that the designation will have an effect on the “reputation of both the person and the assets of the person named”. The designation will result in the freezing of the assets of the subjects.

Other contested parts not unconstitutional

The SC PIO also stated in its opinion: “Based on the current petitions, all other contested petitions of RA 11479 are not unconstitutional.

He also advised parties and the public “to wait for the publication and read the decision and the individual opinions for the explanation of the votes.”

This means that one of the provisions of the heavily attacked law, Article 29, which allows law enforcement or military personnel to detain suspected terrorists for 14 days, extendable by another 10 days, before being detained. bringing them before the judicial authorities is still in force.

The petitioners have raised concerns that a person detained under section 29 of the law may file a habeas corpus petition, but due to the wording of the law, the summons will not be issued.

They also argued that the disputed article of the law suspends the habeas corpus remedy for a maximum of 24 days even if there is no invasion and rebellion, which are constitutionally required conditions.

The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus can be suspended if one of the two conditions is met and if “public safety so requires”.

More than a year of waiting

This puts an end to the petitioners’ more than a year of waiting in their legal fight against the anti-terrorism law which they say violates fundamental rights and is susceptible to abuse to target dissidents and critics, many of whom have been labeled by the Duterte administration as rebels or supporters of the rebels.

Thirty-seven groups of petitioners have placed their hopes in the 15-member tribunal to have the anti-terrorism law struck from the country’s statutes. Despite several hours of oral argument and hundreds of pages of argument, they failed to win the court vote.

Two Aeta farmers were also charged with violating Article 4 of the law in 2020 and were detained for almost a year, only for the court to later rule that the prosecution evidence was insufficient as the Government accusers have failed to prove the identity of the farmers as perpetrators. terrorism.

Among the fears the petitioners have raised with SC is the red labeling of progressives and dissenters, but this dangerous practice has continued even as their arguments have been heard by judges.

So far, the counterterrorism council has designated the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and 19 suspected members of the CPP, including four peace consultants, as terrorists.

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