Petitioners to challenge SC's Anti-Terrorism Act ruling, says law still repressive

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 9)— At least four of the 37 petitioners are unsatisfied with the Supreme Court's decision to only declare two portions of the hotly contested Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) as unconstitutional.

Indigenous women group Lilak expressed dismay at the high court's ruling, saying the law that was generally left untouched by the Supreme Court will still put individuals critical of the Duterte administration in danger.

It added the arrest of Aetas Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos as the first case under the violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act is proof the law will be abused and indigenous peoples (IPs) will continue to suffer.

"We express fear and discontentment that the decision of the Supreme Court still upholds the repressive law," Lilak said in a statement. "The mere existence of the terror law spells more thorns in the lives and struggles of indigenous women and their communities... The ATA has lessened whatever protection the IPs have in the defense of their rights."

RELATED: Local court junks first terrorism case

Rights group Karapatan said the decision of the high court to only strike down the vague and overbroad definition of terrorism and the arbitrary powers of the Anti-Terrorism Council to designate terrorists means other "draconian" portions of the law are still enforceable.

"The Supreme Court's decision to adopt repressive provisions... will only set to worsen the already dismal human rights situation in the country," Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) and Bayan Muna Chairperson Neri Colmenares said they will challenge the Supreme Court's declaration that almost all the other provisions of the law are within the bounds of the Constitution.

They cited the retained parts such as warrantless arrest, detention of suspected terrorists for up to 24 days, freezing of assets, and definitions of incitement are among the portions they plan to include in their motion for reconsideration.

"We will not allow the dying of the flickering light of our basic rights," NUPL President Edre Olalia said.

'Fundamentally flawed'

Aside from the petitioners, several groups also expressed concern over the law.

Rights group Amnesty International said the Anti-Terrorism Act "remains deeply flawed" and open to possible abuse by authorities.

"Other dangerous provisions also remain," it said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said it was disappointed that the high court upheld a law "infringing upon" media workers' rights to free press and expression.

The Anti-Terrorism Act is the most challenged law in the country, with critics labeling it as "vague" and may be open to abuse and human rights violations.

After several oral arguments, the magistrates deliberated and ruled on the controversial law on Tuesday, but the details were released on Thursday after a thorough review of the votes cast by the justices.

The full decision and separate opinions have yet to be released.