CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Individuals and a group from Mindanao who has experienced rights abuses and other forms of harassment are petitioning the Supreme Court to scrap Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020.
Bangsamoro leader Haroun Alrashid Lucman Jr., human rights activist Jay Apiag, media practitioners Leonardo Vicente “Cong” Corrales, Mario Maximo “Dodong” Solis, and Tyrone Velez, and representatives from lumad school Salugpongan Ta’tanu Igkanogon are expected to submit their 41-page pleading assailing ATA’s legality on Monday, Aug. 3.
Velez is a columnist of Sun Star-Davao, Solis is with Radyo ni Juan- Davao City, and Corrales is an associate editor of Mindanao Gold Star Daily-Cagayan de Oro.
Corrales had been red-tagged several times. A few months ago, he and his son, a government employee, were accused as supporters of the New People’s Army. They both denied the allegation.
“As the head of a family that has been red-tagged, I know how easily this law could be abused in the hands of an organization that has been known to have documented violations the enforcement of even the basic peace and order laws,” said Corrales in an online interview, Saturday, Aug. 1.
In a statement, the petitioners asserted that when President Rodrigo Duterte signed the bill into law last July 3, “the same was a kiss of death to the right of the people to free speech, expression, press, and assembly.”
They represent the Indigenous and Moro peoples, and Christian settlers in Mindanao who are direct victims of the violent cycles of terrorism, counter-terrorism, and religious extremism, as well as red-tagging, red-baiting, terrorist-tagging, and racial profiling.
Due to long history of discrimination, they said, Mindanaoans are often most vulnerable and affected not only by terrorist attacks but also by excessive and disastrous counter-terrorism measures.
They noted that the ambiguous and overbroad definition of terrorism in the law “leaves a chilling effect on people working in the media or on leaders of organized groups whose passionate dissent is simply based on the exercise of their civic duties and fundamental freedoms and liberties as the same may be interpreted as terrorism.”
They also said Section 9 of the ATA, which penalizes inciting to terrorism, “infringes on their right to free speech, expression, press, and assembly which are protected under Article III Section 4 of the Constitution.”
The petitioners have also questioned Section 29 of RA 11479, which, according to them, is a violation of Article III, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution by empowering the Anti-Terrorist Council to issue written orders to arrest and detain suspected terrorists, dismissing the power of the court to determine probable cause as basis for the issuance of a warrant.
Lawyer Manuel Quibod, a member of the petitioners’ legal team, said that, “while there is a great necessity to fight and defeat terrorism, the solution should not destroy democracy and curtail the enjoyment of fundamental rights which are guaranteed by the Constitution.”
The said petitioners are supporting the government’s effort to defeat the menace of terrorism but said it must be achieved without “terrorizing” the very Constitution to which all other laws must conform and to which all persons, including the highest officials of this country must defer.
The Ateneo Legal Services Office, Ateneo Public Interest and Legal Advocacy Center, Balaod Mindanao, Free Legal Assistance Group–Southern Mindanao Region, Union of Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao, and lawyer-advocate Mary Ann Arnado have assisted and represented the petitioners. (davaotoday.com)