The Supreme Court (SC) en banc has closed the door on petitions challenging Republic Act 11479, also known as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, denying applications for reconsideration of its December 7, 2021, judgment with finality.
The Supreme Court said it “decided to dismiss the applications for reconsideration due to a lack of serious problems and arguments” submitted by petitioners in more than three dozen litigation in a statement issued during its summer sessions in Baguio City on Tuesday.
The members of the SC maintained their votes in December, written by now-retired Philippine Judicial Academy Chancellor Rosmari Carandang.
The final copy of the decision has yet to be released as of posting time
In December, the SC upheld the validity of the law except for two provisions.
Aside from portions of Sections 4 and 25, all the other challenged provisions of RA 11479 were deemed constitutional.
Section 4 deals with excluding mass actions and similar exercise of civil and political rights from the definition of terrorism while Section 25 is about requests by foreign agencies or bodies to designate persons as terrorists and terrorist organizations.
The SC voted 12-3 to declare unconstitutional the qualifier portion of Section 4 that states “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”.
This qualifier to the proviso in Section 4 “is declared as unconstitutional for being overbroad and violative of freedom of expression,” the court said.
Likewise stricken down by a vote of 9-6 was a portion of Section 25, paragraph 2 which allows “request for designations by other jurisdictions or supranational jurisdictions may be adopted by the ATC (Anti-Terrorism Council) after determination that the proposed designee meets the criteria for designation of UNSCR No. 1373”.
Among other provisions, the United Nations Security Council resolution urges members to “find ways of intensifying and accelerating the exchange of operational information, especially regarding actions or movements of terrorist persons or networks; forged or falsified travel documents; traffic in arms, explosives or sensitive materials; use of communications technologies by terrorist groups; and the threat posed by the possession of weapons of mass destruction by terrorist groups”.
This year’s SC summer sessions are the first since the coronavirus pandemic broke out in March 2020 and the first under Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, who was appointed on April 5, 2021.
SC decision ‘triumph’ for PH
Malacañang on Tuesday welcomed the decision of the SC to junk the appeals to reconsider its ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
“We welcome the latest decision of the Supreme Court on Republic Act No. 11479, otherwise known as the ‘Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020,’” acting presidential spokesperson and Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a press statement.
Andanar issued the statement after the SC junked the motions for reconsideration filed by a group of petitioners questioning the legality of RA 11479.
Andanar said the SC’s latest move could be considered a “triumph” for the entire Filipinos, as he emphasized that RA 11479’s goal is to ramp up the country’s fight against terrorism.
“We consider this latest High Court ruling a triumph for all peace-loving and law-abiding Filipinos as it serves as a stern warning against malevolent elements that the Philippines is not a safe haven for terrorists,” he said.
RA 11579, inked by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on July 3, 2020, aims to protect life, liberty, and property from terrorism deemed as “inimical and dangerous to the national security of the country and to the welfare of the people.”
In December last year, the SC upheld the validity of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, except for two provisions of the law.
Under RA 11479, people who are part of the planning and training for the commission of terrorism will face life imprisonment sans the benefit of parole and the benefits provided under RA 10592 or the Good Conduct Time Allowance Law.
The anti-terror law also warns that any person who threatens to commit terror acts will suffer the penalty of 12-year imprisonment.
It also states that people who propose to commit or join terror acts will be jailed for 12 years.
Advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person or to create a serious risk to public safety are not considered terror acts, according to RA 11479.
The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 also ensures that the use of torture and other “cruel, inhumane, and degrading” treatment or punishment against detained suspected terrorists is “absolutely prohibited.” (PNA)