Anti-terrorism law petitioners want Esperon out of next oral arguments

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 14)— Petitioners challenging the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 are urging the Supreme Court to cancel the appearance of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon for the next round of oral arguments.

"Petitioners respectfully pray [for] his recall to continue his interpellation on Monday, May 17, 2021, at 2:30 P.M. be canceled," they wrote in a motion filed before the high court on Friday.

They also sought to expunge or delete Esperon's testimony from the records of the case.

In the motion, the petitioners cited Esperon's alleged "red-tagging" during the debates. "The supreme irony is that Secretary Esperon was able to engage in red-tagging before this very Court, when red-tagging was one of the grave dangers that impelled petitioners to come to this Court in the first place," they wrote in the two-page document.

"No one specially our government officials should be allowed to use the proceedings of this Court as a platform to engage in acts that are not only anomalous but downright dangerous," the motion further read.

Esperon has yet to comment on the matter.

It was during Wednesday's oral arguments on the controversial anti-terrorism law that Esperon first bared the government would be publishing a list of "designated" terrorists. The Anti-Terrorism Council's list released on Thursday tagged 29 individuals, including Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria "Joma" Sison and other CPP officials.

Thirty-seven petitions have been filed challenging the constitutionality of the highly-contested law, which critics have labeled as "vague," and may be open to abuse and human rights violations. However, several government officials have repeatedly dismissed these claims, saying there are enough safeguards in place to protect the rights of citizens.