A Philippine opposition senator is calling on groups and individuals to “besiege” the country’s highest tribunal with petitions, shifting the battle the battle over the newly enacted anti-terrorism law to the Supreme Court.
Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said that the Supreme Court should know that many Filipinos believe the law contravenes the 1987 Constitution.
He made the appeal a day after the first petition was filed in the high court to stop the enforcement of Republic Act No. 11479, or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which President Rodrigo Duterte signed on Friday.
The petitioners said the law contained provisions that were “repugnant” to the Constitution.
The President signed the measure amid mounting opposition over fears that it might be used to crack down on legitimate dissent and lead to violations of human rights.
Pangilinan, chair of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, said he himself would question the enactment of the law in the high court.
“We have to exhaust all (legal) remedies. Whether we win or not is another thing altogether. But we have to fight,” he said in a radio interview.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque meanwhile said, Malacañang will leave it to the Supreme Court to decide on petitions challenging the constitutionality of the antiterrorism law and would defer to the high court’s wisdom.
Vice President Leni Robredo threw her support behind efforts to question the new law.
“We can still do a lot… We can go to the Supreme Court because we believe there are unconstitutional provisions,” Robredo said in a television interview on Saturday. “We can also continue to engage Congress to repeal or amend the provisions that are not acceptable to us.”
In a statement, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said it was now up to the Supreme Court to rectify the constitutional infirmities of the law and to protect the people from having their civil liberties denied under the new law.
Lagman described some features of the law as “draconian,” among them a provision that would allow the arrest and detention of suspects for at most 24 days without warrant and charges, a six-month ransacking of bank accounts, and a 90-day surveillance and wire-tapping.
He also questioned vague provisions allowing law enforcers, the Anti-Terrorism Council and the Anti-Money Laundering Council to perpetrate abusive interpretations of the law and unlawful apprehensions.
The law removed the safeguard in the repealed Human Security Act that penalized erring officers with a PHP500,000 per day fine for each day someone spends in wrongful detention.
For detained Sen. Leila de Lima, the new law was akin to “giving a gun to a schoolyard bully,” as she supported Pangilinan in asking the magistrates “to protect our democracy and invalidate this legal abomination.”
“[This law], in the hands of Mr. Duterte, is just another weapon for his ‘lawfare’ against lawful dissent, political rivals and the rest of our countrymen demanding accountability for his misgovernance, injustices and treason,” she said in a handwritten dispatch.
“This scenario is not unfounded. In his four years in office, we have seen him use our laws to bully the opposition, journalists, activists and human rights defenders, and, yes, even major TV stations who dare speak truth to power,” De Lima said. (Source: INQUIRER.net)