MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) announcement that the oral arguments to the Anti-Terrorism Law would be heard starting January 2021 is a welcome development, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said on Friday.
NUPL president Edre Olalia said that they are looking toward a transparent discussion on the issue — especially since various groups that do not necessarily share the same exact principles — have filed similar petitions asking for the junking of the Anti-Terrorism Law.
“We are glad that finally the SC has set the (physical) oral arguments and distilled the major issues involved,” Olalia said.
“We look forward to a transparent, dynamic and exhaustive legal interchange and hope that the unprecedented number of petitions and diverse petitioners that have met at intersecting positions will all collectively contribute to upholding the so-called rule of law, be faithful to constitutional precepts and re-establish the deteriorating fortress of human rights and freedoms,” he added.
However, NUPL also expressed concerns that abuses may occur as the high tribunal has yet to issue a temporary restraining order on the controversial law, as such petitions would be discussed also in January 2021.
NUPL on Wednesday revealed that the Anti-Terrorism Law, which amended the Human Security Act of 2007, has already recorded its first hit — two Aetas from Zambales who are accused of engaging in a shooting spree that resulted in a death of a soldier.
Olalia claimed that the firearms were merely planted by the authorities, which goes in contrast to reports from the Philippine Army.
“However, given that the question of a TRO or a SQA order has been tabled as a preliminary issue until January 19, 2021 yet, we entertain the apprehension though that meanwhile no further onslaughts on basic rights happen considering the current intensifying political weaponization of the law,” he noted.
Olalia’s NUPL helped activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan file its own petition, as they believe the Anti-Terrorism Law has numerous vague provisions that opens the way for red-tagging — which may be lead to avenues for rights violations and other human rights issues.
As of now, there are 37 petitions pending before the Supreme Court, filed by various sectors coming from different fields — lawyer and former vice president Jejomar Binay and Rene Saguisag, retired SC justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio Morales,