• Melo Acuna

Anti-Terrorism Law critics say the provisions are contrary to 1987 Constitution

Issues raised by concerned groups on Anti-Terror Law

MANILA – Different groups have manifested concern over what they termed as controversial measures enshrined in the Anti-Terror Bill which President Rodrigo Dutertee signed into law last Friday.

Asked further what specific provisions of the 1987 Constitution did the new law violate, Atty. Sonny Matula of Nagkaisa Labor Coalition said the Anti-Terrorism Law for presidential action is “seductive” because administrative detention of 14 days which may be extended for another 10 days on mere suspicion or for the sole purpose of intelligence gathering at the instance of the soon-to-be created Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) cannot be justified.

Section 29 of the new Law says Detention without judicial warrant of arrest is prone to abuse because any law enforcement agent or military personnel who have been authorized in writing by the Council “has taken custody of a person suspected” of committing any of the acts defined and penalized under several sections of the Law shall, without any criminal liability for delay in the delivery of detained persons to then proper judicial authorities.

“Such a proposal under Section 29 of the bill which has been signed into law by President Duterte id clearly a bold attack against Section 2 of the Bill of Rights (Article III of the 1987 Constitution. This is also a clear and present danger to our individual liberty,” Matula said. As such, an attack on the fundamental law is null and always void no matter how the authors would justify it because only a judge can issue an arrest warrant and no administrative body can do that under the present Constitution per earlier Supreme Court decision.

Even the 14 days administrative detention is contrary to the 1987 Constitution because even during the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, a person arrested without a warrant shall be charged before the courts within three days otherwise he shall be released.

Congressman Edcel C. Lagman, one of the early individuals who filed a case with the Supreme Court of the Philippines hoping for a ruling declaring the Anti-Terrorism law unconstitutional said he hopes the justices will uphold the Constitution.

He said he is not against the suppression of terrorism but said their protest against the law is the use of “fear of terrorism as a subterfuge to curtail civil liberties” which include free speech, right to dissent, freedom from arrest without judicial warrant, privacy of communication, security of property from unreasonable searches and seizures, and freedom of association which cannot be curtailed without judicial process.

He added the people’s basic freedoms should not be sacrificed to promote national security. Congressman Lagman explained it is expected for the government to promote national security and protect basic rights as they do not run counter with each other but rather “mutually reinforcing.”

One of the biggest business groups in the Philippines, the Makati Business Club, called on President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the controversial measure. In a statement released last Thursday, July 2, the group said they are one with the proponents in its desire to fight terrorism.

“However, more through discussion is needed to get broad support for a law as important as this, and to strengthen the unity the country needs to fight the bigger health and economic crisis we are all facing,” the group concluded. Among their members are schools and universities, business organizations, civil society organizations, Labor and Religious organizations. (Melo M. Acuña)

Atty. Sonny Matula (Screen Grab from previous interview)

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