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Diokno sees ‘legal battle’ if anti-terror bill becomes a law

The constitutionality of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act will be questioned in courts if ever it becomes law, according to human rights lawyer Chel Diokno on Monday.

In an interview on GMA News' Quarantined with Howie Severino, Diokno refuted claims that critics of the bill had taken provisions out of context and only read it in part.

"Malamang ay magiging legal battle na po ito at palagay ko aabot ito sa ating mga korte, 'yung constitutionality nitong batas na ito," he said when asked on plans if ever the bill was enacted.

He said that several lawyers were, even now, preparing petitions to question its legality.

"Siyempre hindi pa naman pwedeng magsampa ng kaso dahil hindi pa naman napirmahan pero basta naging effective 'yan, probably the battle will shift to the courts," he added.

He explained that among the questionable provisions in the anti-terror bill was the detention of up to 24 days for suspected terrorists arrested without a warrant.

"Klarong-klaro sa ating Konstitusyon kahit na deklarado pa ang Martial Law, kahit suspendido pa ang privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, hindi pwedeng lumampas sa tatlong araw 'yung pagkakulong ng isang tao na wala siyang kaso. So I really don't see how the new law can be justified in terms of our constitution," Diokno said, citing Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, principal sponsor of the anti-terror bill, previously said that the proposed 14-day detention period, extendable by 10 days, was less stringent compared to those imposed in other countries.

However, Diokno stressed that it doesn't change the fact that the said provision of the bill was incongruent with the Constitution.

"May mga ibang bansa na hanggang 30 days pwede ka makulong pero iba kasi ang konstitusyon nila doon. Consistent 'yung batas nila doon sa kanilang constitution. Dapat sa atin ay consistent din 'yung ating batas sa ating Saligang Batas," he said.

Speech crime

Diokno was also concerned over the alleged power of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) to designate and authorize the warrantless arrest of suspected terrorists.

Lacson, on the other hand, said the proposed measure did not empower the ATC to "exercise any judicial or quasi-judicial power or authority."

Further, the human rights lawyer said the bill had a provision that punished "speech crime" or inciting to terrorism.

"Kapag ikaw ay magsalita at sa tingin ng pamahalaan ay 'yung mga salita ninyo ay hinikayat ninyo ang mga taong bayan na magsagawa ng terorismo ay pwede ka nang sampahan ng kaso," Diokno said.

"Kami nga po 'yung mga kasama sa Otso Diretso at pati si Vice President Leni Robredo ay nasampahan ng inciting to sedition na sabi ng DOJ maya-maya ay hindi naman pala sapat ang ebidensya sa laban sa amin. Kung nagagawa po nila 'yan sa inciting to sedition, maaari ding mangyari 'yan sa inciting to terrorism," he added.

Diokno further said that the administration could come up with a list of terrorists like what it did in the campaign against illegal drugs.

"'Pag 'yun ay naging publiko na at ang nakita mo ang pangalan mo doon na ikaw pala ay terorista, isipin mo 'yung problema niyo sa inyong reputasyon," he said.

He underscored that the veracity of the so-called narco list of the government was questionable.

"Kung maalala po ninyo, 'yung unang narco list na nailabas noong 2016 pa ay may kasamang pangalan ng judge na patay na pala. So lumalabas doon ay walang sapat na pagche-check bago nailabas," he said.

The anti-terror bill may immediately be challenged before the Supreme Court once it becomes a law, according to retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

Lacson, meanwhile, stood firm that the bill could withstand the Supreme Court's scrutiny because it was anchored on the Bill of Rights.

The controversial bill is now up for Duterte's signature after the Congress transmitted it to the Palace on June 9.

Malacañang said the President was expected to receive the opinions of various agencies on the legality of the proposed measure this week. — Dona Magsino/DVM, GMA News