Unconstitutional

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EDITORIAL

Retired Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio and former ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales have joined the petitioners against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, arguing in the 11th case against the controversial ATA or Republic Act 11479 that it should be declared unconstitutional because it gives the Anti-Terrorism Council powers greater than those of the president of the republic.

Carpio and Morales will file their 86-page petition for certiorari and prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, with urgent prayer for a status quo ante order and/or temporary restraining order or a writ of preliminary injunction.

They are questioning the Section 45 of the ATA on the creation of the ATC, which has reportedly been given integral powers to order the warrantless arrest of “suspected” terrorists. They say this is invalid because it infringes on the basic principle of separation of powers and gives powers that far exceed those constitutionally granted to the President as commander-in-chief.

Only the President has the power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus for not more than 60 days, provided there is an invasion or rebellion and that public safety requires it. During this time, any person arrested or detailed shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he or she shall be released.

In Section 29 of the ATA, however, the ATC is authorized to order the warrantless arrest and detention of suspected terrorists for 14 days, extendable to 24 days.

The petitioners, legal luminaries in their own right, much like the others who have also filed petitions, also argued that the ATA is vague and its overreach represses free speech.

The petitioners clarified that while they are one with the government’s quest to stamp out and prevent terrorism, they question the unconstitutional means by which it intends to attain peace, security and public order in the country.

Despite opposition from several legal and human rights groups, the ATA somehow passed the legislative gauntlet in record time. Its constitutional infirmities and potential for abuse that are highlighted by the petitions against it are hopefully taken into serious consideration by our Supreme Court that supposedly has the brightest legal minds in the country.*

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November 2020
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