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Constitutionality of ATA victory for law-abiding citizens

By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan / Philippine News Agency

Supreme Court (File photo)

MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) decision that Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) is constitutional, save for two provisions, was a clear and convincing victory for law-abiding and responsible citizens.

Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año stressed on Sunday that the ATA is the state’s main tool to run after terrorist groups.

“Rest assured, we will be making the appropriate adjustments to conform to the decision of the high court and continue to implement the ATA strictly as a means of protecting the Filipino people against any and all acts of terrorism,” he said during a radio interview.

Año also said the Office of the Solicitor General will not appeal the two discarded provisions as it is satisfied with the SC decision.

He commended Solicitor General Jose Calida for his expert handling of the case where 35 out of the 37 provisions were ruled as constitutional.

“While we await the release of the full decision, we welcome, respect, and acknowledge the decision of the Supreme Court that only two provisions of the entire law were struck down. With only two minimal provisions being declared unconstitutional, it shows that the law itself as a whole is legal and constitutional,” Año said.

He said the two provisions were minimal and would not affect the overall implementation of the law.

According to the SC advisory on Thursday, Section 4 of the ATA that says “...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” was declared as unconstitutional by a vote of 12-3 for being overbroad and violative of freedom of expression.

In addition, the second method for designation found in Section 25, paragraph 2 of the law that says “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 (United Nations Security Council Resolution) No. 1373” was voted unconstitutional, 9-6.

The landmark Resolution No. 1373 was adopted by the UN Security Council on Sept. 28, 2001 in the wake of the terrorist attacks carried out in the United States on September 11.

The resolution defined a broad counter-terrorism mandate for the international community and established the Counter-Terrorism Committee to monitor states’ implementation of its provisions.

“We are not favoring any organization but the law will now differentiate an activist from a terrorist. So this means if you are an activist you can rally, demonstrate, boycott. No problem with those. You are not a terrorist,” Año said.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) likewise reiterated that the ATA can curb insurgency, terrorism, and other forms of lawlessness.

“Overall, we still see the law as favorable to the best interest of law and order,” PNP chief Gen. Dionardo Carlos said in a statement.

He echoed Año’s explanation that the law will not be subject to abuse as it has been cleared out that a simple expression of advocacy or dissent or other similar exercises of civil and political rights are not considered as terroristic acts.

“Thus, freedom of expression is upheld and respected,” Carlos added. (PNA)

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