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SC declares two parts of anti-terror law as unconstitutional

The Supreme Court has declared two parts of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 as unconstitutional following months of oral arguments.

During its en banc session on Tuesday, the high tribunal voted as unconstitutional a qualifier in Section 4 and the second paragraph of Section 25 of Republic Act 11479.

“On the basis of the current petitions, all the other challenged provisions of R.A. 11479 are not unconstitutional,” the SC said in an advisory.

“The main ponencia and the various opinions contain interpretations of some of the provisions declared in these cases as not unconstitutional,” it added.

Voided parts

Section 4 of the law states that terrorism shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights.

However, there is a qualifier stating dissent is not considered terrorism, provided that it is not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person's life, or to create a serious risk to public safety.

Voting 12-3, the SC voided the phrase, "...which are not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person's life, or to create a serious risk to public safety," found in Section 4e for being "overbroad and violative of freedom of expression."

Meanwhile, Section 25 sates that the Anti-Terrorism Council will automatically adopt the United Nations Security Council Consolidated List of designated individuals or groups designated as a terrorist, one who finances terrorism, or a terrorist organization.

Paragraph 2 of this section states that a request for designation by other jurisdictions of supranational jurisdictions may be adopted by the ATC after a determination that the proposed designee meets the criteria for designation of UNSCR.

This method was declared unconstitutional by the high court with a vote of 9-6.

However, the high tribunal has yet to release an explanation on why this is unconstitutional.



The ruling means the Supreme Court believes other provisions in the measure -- such as the 12-year imprisonment for any person who will threaten to commit terrorism -- as constitutional.

The same jail term will be imposed on those who will propose any terroristic act or incite others to commit terrorism.

The 14-day warrantless detention period for suspected terrorists, which can be extended by 10 days, will also remain.

“The parties and the public are advised to await the publication and read the decision and the separate opinions for the explanation of the votes,” the SC said.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the anti-terror bill into law in July 2020.

A total of 37 petitions seeking to nullify the measures have been filed against it, making it one of the most challenged laws before the Supreme Court.

The oral arguments on the anti-terror law took place from February to May with delays occurring in between as the Philippines battled the coronavirus pandemic.

The petitioner’s panel was composed of Jose Anselmo Cadliz, Chel Diokno, Evalyn Ursua, Neri Colmenares, Alfredo Molo II, Edcel Lagman, and Algamar Latip.

Solicitor General Jose Calida, meanwhile, represented the government. --KBK, GMA News