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Abolishing anti-terror law against int'l obligations: SolGen

Updated: May 3, 2021

By Benjamin Pulta / Philippine News Agency

MANILA – Nullification of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) will compromise international economic commitments and endanger the nation’s economic survival.

Thus, said Solicitor General Jose Calida on Tuesday during the resumption of the oral arguments on the ATA before the Supreme Court (SC).

Calida cited the 2020 Global Terrorism Index that indicated the Philippines has the dubious distinction of being the only Southeast Asian country in the top 10 nations most impacted by terrorism, adding that the anti-terror law “is essential to the Philippines compliance to international obligations”.

He noted that the international FATF (Financial Action Task Force) has set a deadline for the enactment of an anti-terrorism statute.

If the country fails to comply, the Philippines will be in danger of being included in the ”high risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions", he said.

“Without such a law the Philippines will be treated as a leper. FATF will see to it to either blacklist us or put us on the grey list,” he said.

The enactment of the ATA is compliant with the country’s obligations under the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) No. 1373 and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, Calida stressed.

“The latest Mutual Evaluation Report of the FATF rated the Philippines as only partially compliant to UNSCR No. 1373. The UNSC found the Philippines’ efforts in preventing terrorist financing as grossly deficient.”

Calida added that greylisting the country in the future would reduce investor and lender confidence and “may also result to limited access to banking or financial services” and could potentially affect millions of overseas Filipino workers and their families who “will be severely affected by the higher cost of remittances which reduce the amount of their support”.

“Clearly, greylisting would seriously affect the country’s international trade, remittances, and humanitarian financial flows that support the country’s economic growth and development,” he said.

A grey list is made up of countries that are considered as a safe haven for terror funding and money laundering while blacklisted nations are those deemed non-cooperative in the global effort to curb money laundering and terror financing.

No justification

Calida emphasized that nothing will justify the murder of innocent people and helpless children.

“Terrorism must be outlawed by all civilized nations, not explained or rationalized, but fought and eradicated. Nothing can and nothing will justify the murder of innocent people and helpless children,” Calida said in his opening statement.

The questions raised, Calida said, are outside the powers of the court.

“Congress in its wisdom passed a new Anti-Terrorism Act. The political question is the reason behind this enactment. The doctrine of separation of powers barricades it from judicial scrutiny. The determination of this matter exclusively rests upon Congress. Due deference from the courts, is expected,” he said.

“It is the duty of petitioners to demonstrate actual case and controversy worthy of judicial resolution. Despite the braggadocio of the petitioners, they did not do it,” he added.

He said "outright dismissal is the only choice available" because there are other parties with direct and specific interests.

Calida said there are charges for violation of the ATA being litigated before regional trial courts.

“Ergo, any resolution, in this case, would be purely academic and hypothetical – a clear waste of this Honorable Court’s time and resources,” Calida added.

Among the cases being pursued, Calida cited the proscription case filed by the Department of Justice against the Abu Sayyaf Group before a Basilan court.

He noted the declaration of the Anti-Terrorism Council, designating the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army and Islamic State East Asia, Maute Group, Daulah Islamiyah, and other associated groups, as terrorist organizations.

Faulty filings

Calida also noted formal defects in some petitions which failed to comply with the requirements of the high court.

He said there are petitions that did not submit a special power of attorney to allow counsel to represent their interests in the case; failed to state the required attestation in the rules of court; failed to comply with court rules requiring paragraphs to be numbered as required in court rules; and lacked the required verification and certification for non-forum shopping.

A total of 37 petitions were filed before the SC, questioning the ATA. (PNA)



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