Lagman: SC’s partial nullity of Anti-Terror Law not enough

By Mavic Conde

The Supreme Court (SC) has declared two provisions of the 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) unconstitutional.


Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman, who is among individuals and groups that sought the nullification of the entire law, however, said that this is not enough protection.


“While the nullity of the killer proviso under Section 4 of the ATA and the method for designation in Section 25, Paragraph 2 of the ATA, is welcome, the entire law should have been voided,” Lagman said in a news release.


On Dec. 7 this year, the SC voted 12-3 to declare as null parts of Section 4 that defines terrorism “...which are not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person’s life, or to create a serious risk to public safety,” through “advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights.”


According to SC, this is “overbroad and violative of freedom of expression.”


Also, the SC declared Section 25, Paragraph 2, which allows the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) to welcome requests for designation of terror suspects from other jurisdictions as unconstitutional in a 9-6 vote.


The ATC may designate individuals, groups, organizations and associations, whether domestic or foreign, as terrorists, as long as there’s a probable cause.


Lagman said “The declaration of unconstitutionality of only two provisions of the ATA fails to fully uphold and protect due process, human rights, and fundamental freedoms.”


He emphasized that the ATA’s definition of “terrorism” should have been junked, adding: It is “grossly vague as it ensnares innocent victims who are the targets of the government’s vengeance and reprisal for being conscientious dissenters and vigilant critics of the administration.”


Lagman also stressed that upholding the legality of the ATC’s authority to cause the detention of terror suspect under Section 29 for a maximum of 24 days without a judicial warrant of arrest is a blatant violation of the Constitution.


Only the courts can order the detention of a suspect through the issuance of a warrant of arrest. Yet “even in warrantless arrests, the detention of a suspect cannot be unduly prolonged (maximum of three days detention) before he is brought to the judicial authority,” Lagman said.


Meanwhile, Khryss Arañas, Bicol region chairperson and Vice-President for Luzon of Jovenes Anakbayan, said in an interview that “ATL is still a danger to the lives of the youth, media workers, activists, farmers unionists, lawyers, and all Filipino democratic forces.”


He added, “hindi lang mga parte ng Terror Law ang dapat na ibasura kundi ang buong Terror Law mismo. Kasi maliban sa unconstitutionality nito ay nasa record na ng kasalukuyang rehimen na ang mga binabansagan nilang terorista ay ang mga progresibo, kritiko, at mga aktibista na kumukontra sa mga ‘di makatarungan at anti-mamamayan na mga patakaran ng estado.” (With report from Paolo Gabriel Jamer).