MANILA – No shortcuts that would compromise rights and liberties of members of the general public were applied in Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020.
State lawyers stressed this point during the online oral arguments Tuesday on the 37 petitions questioning the ATA’s validity before the Supreme Court (SC), saying the nature of terroristic acts have evolved through the years and so must the law.
The sixth session saw SC justices grill state lawyers on the detention clause and red-tagging that may be unlawfully applied.
Associate Justice Jhosep Lopez questioned Assistant Solicitor General Marissa dela Cruz-Galandines on Section 29 of the ATA, which allows enforcement agents or military personnel, who have been duly authorized in writing by the Anti-Terrorism Council, to detain terrorism suspects.
Galandines said the written order from the ATC would only be for the continued detention of the suspect who was arrested following a valid warrant of arrest“.
“(I)t was very clear from the interpellation of Senator Panfilo Lacson [proponent of the law] that the intention of the law was for the ATC to issue a written order for the continued detention and not the issuance of an arrest order,” she said.
Lopez also questioned her on the power of the ATC to authorize the detention of suspected terrorists for as long as 24 days.
“Under extraordinary circumstances, the maximum is only three days and yet under ordinary times like what we are having right now, no emergency, no rebellion or anything, no invasion and yet the maximum period of detention is 24 days,” he pointed out.
Galindines cited Section 18, Article VII (of the Constitution) that came about because of fear that martial law will again be proclaimed by a sitting President.
“This is actually an answer to the fear brought about by the previous government prior to the presidency of [the late] President Corazon Aquino,” she noted.
She also defended the constitutionality of Section 25, which allows the ATA to designate an individual or organization as a terrorist or engaged in terrorism.
She said in the previous session that the designation is merely for purposes of applying for a freeze order against suspected terrorist organizations or individuals.
Lopez questioned the need to designate a person or a group a terrorist in order to file a freeze order.
“During my time as an associate justice of the Court of Appeals, we have AMLAC (Anti-Money Laundering Council) cases against perhaps terrorists. There was never any kind of designation. You can file it with the Court of Appeals and get a freeze order without having to designate anybody or any organization as terrorist,” he said.
“Is designation by itself a penalty because in the eyes of the law you are already designated a terrorist. In fact, in the eyes of your family, of your friends, of your relatives, your neighbors? In fact, of the entire country, they will know that you are already a designated terrorist. So don’t you think that this need not be put into the law?” the magistrates asked.
Galandines stressed that it is a prerogative measure of the ATC and that “the process of designation does not amount to indictment or conviction”.
Associate Justice Ricardo Rosario tackled the red-tagging of organizers of community pantries.
“How will the government ensure that the ATA will not unduly and unlawfully identify any person as a suspect of terrorism merely on the basis of suspicion?” Rosario asked Galandines.
Galandines assured the Court that the government is not involved in red-tagging, a term which she pointed out was coined by the leftist sector.
“The government is firm that what it does is truth tagging and not red-tagging,” she said. (PNA)