Once signed into law, the anti-terrorism bill may immediately be challenged before the Supreme Court, retired senior associate justice Antonio Carpio said Thursday.
Carpio said that the constitutionality of the law may be questioned through a "facial challenge" -- one that alleges that a law is void as it is, as opposed to an "as applied" challenge, in which a law is alleged to be unconstitutional in certain circumstances.
"Yes, upon a facial challenge because the law punishes speech -- inciting to commit terrorism," the former justice told GMA News Online.
"This is an exception to the rule that you cannot question the constitutionality of a law before SC if you are not accused of violating it," he said.
A facial challenge may be mounted even before an actual injury, or a violation of one's rights due to the implementation of a law, occurs.
Inciting to commit terrorism is one of the acts punishable under the anti-terrorism bill, which is now up for President Rodrigo Duterte's signature after hurdling the Senate in February and the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
The bill broadens the definition of terrorism and allows the warrantless detention of a suspected terrorist for 14 days, extendable by 10 days, as well as the surveillance of suspected terrorists for 60 days, extendable by up to 30 days upon authorization by the Court of Appeals.
Groups have criticized the proposed measure, which they fear could empower the government to go after activists and dissenters and could be prone to abuse and misuse by authorities. Among its critics is United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who said in a new report that the bill "dilutes human rights safeguards."
Administration officials have defended the bill, with presidential spokesperson Harry Roque saying the Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression.
Roque, years before he was presidential spokesperson, was involved in an SC case challenging the Human Security Act of 2007, the law that the anti-terrorism bill seeks to replace.
In that case, the tribunal ruled in 2013 that several individuals including Roque had no legal standing to challenge provisions of the Human Security Act. The court said at the time that the "possibility of abuse... remain highly-speculative and merely theorized."
In this same ruling, the SC said that a previous decision that was promulgated in 2010 "did not make any definitive ruling on the constitutionality" of the Human Security Act.
According to former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the SC has never passed upon the constitutionality of the "substantive portions" of the Human Security Act.
It is pursuant to this 2007 law that the Duterte administration asked a trial court to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army as terrorist organizations. Filed in 2018, this petition for proscription remains pending before the Manila Regional Trial Court.
Workers' group oppose
The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) called on the government to not be "seduced" into "running afoul'" with the Philippine Constitution in its aim to defeat terrorism in the country.
The group said Congress succumbed to the "enticement and temptation" when it passed Senate Bill 1083 and House Bill 6875.
"The FFW rejects such seduction as it is detrimental to democracy and repugnant to human rights, particularly the rights to life and liberty of our people," it added. —With reports from Joahna Lei Casilao/NB/LDF, GMA News