Petitioners take another shot to strike down Anti-Terrorism Law

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 2)— Twenty-six out of 37 petitioner groups have filed a joint appeal urging the Supreme Court to declare the Anti-Terrorism Law unconstitutional.

The joint motion for partial reconsideration filed March 2, zeroed in on Sections 10, 25, and 29 of the highly contested law.

The petitioners asked the high court to have another look at Section 10 — which penalizes individuals on the basis of joining a group that's "organized for the purpose of engaging in terrorism."

The motion read that the provision is "unconstitutional for being vague, overbroad, and for failing to meet the strict scrutiny test."

The petitioners also want a provision granting the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) authority to designate individuals as terrorists under Section 25 scrutinized.

They cited the case of Lumad teacher Chad Booc — who had been red-tagged for years and was killed in an alleged military operation last week. They claimed the ATC has engaged in red-tagging, which has led to the killings of activists and human rights defenders.

"Hindi madali ang designation. Kapag dinesignate kang terrorist kahit walang kabatay-batay. Si Chad isang guro, kilala ko si Chad, hindi siya armado, hindi siya NPA [New People's Army]. Consistent siya sa kanyang pagmamahal sa mga Lumad," one of the petitioners, Tony La Viña, said in a press conference.

[Translation: Designation is difficult. You can be baselessly tagged as a terrorist. I knew Chad. He was a teacher, he was not armed, he's not a part of the NPA. He was just consistent with his love for the Lumad.]

While government officials maintained that designation is far from court proscription, petitioners said it's even worse, as names of designated terrorists are published without due process, their assets are frozen, and they are vulnerable to arrest and detention anytime.

As for Section 29, it allows law enforcers and military personnel authorized by the ATC to arrest suspected terrorists without warrant, and detain them without charges for a maximum of 24 days.

The petitioners said it's against the three-day limit in the Constitution and puts detainees at risk of abuse and torture.

"Section 29 destroys the two safeguards in the Constitution to guarantee the protection against unreasonable arrests: first, that only a judge can issue warrants of arrest, and second, that warrants of arrest must be issued only upon probable cause," the motion read.

In a supplemental motion, petitioners again sought a temporary restraining order against the controversial law.

"Ito nga wala pa ngang Anti-Terrorism Law, 'di pa nga final kung ano-ano na pinagagagawa nila. How much more pag i-validate na 'yan ng Korte Suprema? And sasabihin ko rin sa military pending ang MR [motion for reconsideration], hunos dili muna kayo kasi hindi pa naman final ang desisyon," said another peititioner, former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares.

[Translation: Even without the Anti-Terrorism Law, they've been doing what they want. How much more if the Supreme Court validates it? I also want to tell the military that while the MR is still pending, they should just relax because the decision is not yet final.]

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said the petitioners have the right to appeal, but the government will abide by the law.

For his part, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra deferred to the Office of the Solicitor General.

"I can't make my comments known publicly because the case is still pending with the SC (sub judice rule). In any event, my comments as one of the respondents will be formally expressed by the Solicitor-General in his submission to the SC," Guevarra told reporters.

CNN Philippines correspondent Eimor Santos contributed to this report