Lagman: Anti-Terror Law cuts civil liberties for over a century

The oral arguments on the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020 has resumed on Tuesday, Feb. 9. One of the 37 challengers of the controversial law is Albay 1st District Rep.Edcel Lagman.


Why are oral arguments conducted by the Philippine Supreme Court (SC)?


According to a tweet by lawyer Ted Te, “oral arguments before the SC are rare as the large docket does not allow all cases filed to be heard. In the rare instances when the Court does hear arguments, it usually involves constitutional and/or novel questions of law.”


Petitioners like Lagman questioned the vague definition of terrorism in the new law, which amended the Human Security Act of 2007, as well as the arrest and detention of suspected violators of the ATA without being served with a warrant of arrest.


During the first day of the oral arguments on Feb. 2, Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, and Associate Justices Marvic Leonen and Rosmari Carandang asked the presenters whether President Rodrigo Duterte and Congress can and should be left to their own discretion?


In a news release, Lagman said the maximum of 24 days detention without judicial warrant of arrest is unconstitutional.


According to a copy of Lagman’s oral arguments, the ATA “odiously defies more than a century” of civil liberties that have been provided to Filipinos via the 1899 Malolos Constitution, “the Bill of 1902, the Jones Law of 1916 and the Constitutions of 1935, 1973 and 1987.”


In Article 8 of the Malolos Constitution, the first Constitution of the Philippines and the first Republican Charter in all of Asia, it mandated that “All persons detained shall be discharged or delivered to the judicial authority within 24 hours following the act of detention.”


In stark contrast, now ATA has ominously retrogressed to Draconian times, Lagman said.


Lagman added that detention through the Anti-Terrorism Council, which consists of Cabinet members and thus a purely executive agency, not only diminishes judicial jurisdiction but also resurrects the infamous ASSOs (arrest, search and seizure order) during the Marcos regime.


According to Lagman, executive warrants like ASSOs were issued upon authority of President Marcos and legitimized by the 1973 Constitution during the Martial Law regime.


“This anomaly was junked by the 1987 Constitution which deleted the phrase “or such other responsible officer as may be authorized by law”, and it reverted to the 1935 provision on judicial warrants of arrest upon probable cause, and added “to be determined personally by the judge,” Lagman’s statement said.


For Lagman, these “multiple odious violations of the Constitution authorized by the ATA” is a grave abuse of discretion committed by Congress. [Hence,] “the Supreme Court should not wait for an actual case to happen.”