Supreme Court eyes tackling anti-terrorism law in September

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 11) — The Supreme Court will hold oral arguments on the numerous petitions seeking to junk the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act.

The discussions are initially set for the third week of September “at the earliest,” Supreme Court spokesperson Brian Hosaka announced in a statement after the justices' en banc meeting on Tuesday.

“The proper notices will be issued once the date is finalized,” Hosaka said.

Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is the most challenged law at the Supreme Court, with law experts, constitutional framers and several groups saying it should be declared unconstitutional.

The justices ordered the consolidation of the six latest petitions against the anti-terrorism law with the 19 earlier filed at the Supreme Court.

Government officials tagged as respondents are given ten days to file their comments.

In mid-July, Solicitor General Jose Calida submitted a 223-page comment on the first eight petitions, urging the Supreme Court to dismiss them all.

The government’s top lawyer stood by the validity of the measure, which still does not have implementing rules and regulations more than a month since it was signed into law on July 3.

The law has yet to be fully enforced as officials admit it will be “open to question” without the IRR.

Among its contentious provisions is the power given to the Anti-Terrorism Council, a body composed of presidential appointees, to authorize law enforcers and military personnel to conduct warrantless arrests and detention of suspected terrorists for up to 24 days.

Petitioners said this violates the three-day period prescribed in the Constitution for pre-trial detention.

They argued that the vague and overly broad provisions of the law can silence government critics for fear of being tagged as terrorists, but lawmakers who authored and sponsored the measure maintained it has enough safeguards against abuse.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.