SC defers oral arguments on ATA due to health precautions

SC defers oral arguments on ATA due to health precautions

MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) has suspended the continuation of the oral arguments scheduled Tuesday on the suits challenging the constitutionality of Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terror Act of 2020 (ATA).

In a notice sent to the parties, Clerk of Court Edgar Aricheta said the suspension of the arguments was due to health precautions, considering that some of the justices are on self-quarantine.

The oral arguments will resume on March 2.

Solicitor General Jose Calida, who will be arguing for the position of the government, is scheduled to present his case on what would be the third day of oral arguments.

During last Tuesday’s oral arguments, seeking clarification from the petitioners, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said Section 4 and paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of the law are not unique insofar as it penalizes what may appear to be “preparatory” intended acts of terrorism.

In interpellating lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno, he noted that even before the passage of the law, criminalizing “preparatory” acts is covered in some laws.

Among offenses that may be prosecuted, Peralta said, even in the preparatory stage include “proposals to commit a crime of rebellion, conspiracy to commit the crime of sedition and proposal and conspiracy to commit rebellion, treason, and coup d’ etat“.

Three of the five enumerations being questioned in Section 4 of the ATA define terrorism as being committed by persons who, among other things, engages in acts intended to cause death or serious bodily injury or endangers a person’s life, cause extensive damage or destruction to a government or public facility, public place or private property, or cause extensive interference with damage or destruction to critical infrastructure.

Peralta, along with Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier, in interpellating Diokno and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, also questioned the opposition on provisions in the ATA that allows detention of up to 24 days.

Lazaro-Javier pointed out that the provision under the Revised Penal Code on the deadline that an individual must be brought to judicial authorities after his arrest has changed throughout the years from “as soon as possible” to one hour to six hours to one day to up to anywhere from 12 to 36 hours depending on the gravity of the offense.

She said the provision affected by the ATA, Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code which penalizes undue delay in the delivery of arrested persons, may be considered “a work of progress” and jested whether the petitioners would expect the deadlines “will stay like that forever.”

Peralta, meanwhile, said the original deadlines on the period of detention were drafted when the population of the country was still very small compared to the present.

Peralta also added that “the experience is that cases are filed hastily because of this restrictive (period)”. (PNA)

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