Presidential aspirants divided over SC’s Anti-Terrorism Act ruling

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 9) — Presidential aspirants have mixed opinions after the Supreme Court decided to declare two portions of the controversial anti-terrorism law unconstitutional.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, principal sponsor and one of the authors of the ATA in the Senate, hailed the high court’s decision which he said proved that “peace wins over terror.”

“Nagkaroon sila ng mahabang debate diyan pero by and large, talagang nanalo ‘yung peace. Alam mo ‘yung decision ng Supreme Court in just one short sentence, ‘peace wins over terror,’ ‘yun ang maliwanag doon,” he said in a press briefing on Thursday.

[Translation: They had a long debate but by and large, peace really won. The Supreme Court decision could be described in one sentence: ‘peace wins over terror.’ That’s very clear.]

The Supreme Court, voting 12-3, voided a part of Section 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Law for "being overbroad and violative of freedom of expression." The said part would have considered protest or dissent as terrorism if it had intent to cause harm.

With a 9-6 vote, the justices also declared the second part of Section 25 as unconstitutional, which would have allowed the Anti-Terrorism Council to adopt requests for designations by other jurisdictions or supranational jurisdictions.

Vice President Leni Robredo, on the other hand, said any anti-terrorism law must not be abused. She is also hoping that the Supreme Court will resolve soon all concerns raised against the controversial law.

“We remain steadfast in our position: Any Anti-Terrorism legislation must truly address the root causes of terrorism, and should not be used as a pretext to stifle freedom of expression or legitimate dissent,” she said in a statement.

Meanwhile, labor leader Leody de Guzman said the rest of the law’s portions that were upheld could put individuals critical of the government at risk.

“Maghahasik ng lagim ang batas na ito sa mamamayang nagsasapraktika sa mga karapatan sa lehitimong protesta upang ipagtanggol ang kanilang sarili sa pang-aabuso ng iilan,” he said in a statement. “Isasapeligro nito ang mga aktibista’t unyonista.”

[Translation: This law would be a threat to citizens practicing their right to protest against abuses by some. This would endanger activists and union members.]

All other portions challenged by the petitioners were upheld, including the enforcement of warrantless arrest and 24-day detention.

The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte in July 2020, repealed the Human Security Act of 2007.