Citing its threats on freedom to the Bangsamoro, a set of multisectoral Mindanaoan petitioners initiated a Zoom press conference yesterday, seeking to nullify Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Petitioners from the Muslim, Lumad, and Christian communities voiced out their statements during the press con, questioning the constitutionality of the Act.
The petitioners consisted of Former Regional Director of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (now Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) Haroun Alrashid Alonto Lucman Jr., human rights defender Jayvee Apiag, Davao-based journalists Tyrone Velez and Dodong Solis, with their Cagayan De Oro City counterpart Cong Corrales, and Lumad school Salugpongan Ta’tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Incorporated.
The Mindanaon petitioners are assisted by a legal team consisting of lawyers from the Ateneo Legal Services Office, Ateneo Public Interest and Legal Advocacy Center, Balaod Mindanao, Free Legal Assistance Group – Southern Mindanao Region, Union of Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao and lawyer-advocate Atty. Mary Ann Arnado.
The said petition was filed and sent to the Supreme Court yesterday via registered email.
Threats to the Mindanaoan community and the media
Bangsamoro leader Haroun Lucman Jr. cited possible threats of the Act to Muslim communities.
“I feel that extremism will only elevate to a much scary level,” Lucman said, pointing out the connections to the Marawi Siege which caused residents to flee to other parts of Mindanao, including Lanao del Sur, Iligan City, and Cagayan de Oro City.
“We [the Muslim population] were linked to international terrorist groups and it would not be farfetched na dumating sila sa Manila. This [situation] is our fear,” Lucman continued.
The former ARMM Regional Director also added that the ATA will “embolden the security forces of the state to create violations.”
The Executive Director of Salugpongan Learning Center Inc. Ma. Eugenia Victoria Nolasco also shared the same sentiments, stating that ATA will then heighten the violation of the rights of the Lumad children and the community.
“Ayaw namin i-imagine kung gaano pa lalala yung paglabag sa mga karapatang pantao ng mga kabataang Lumad at mga komunidad na sa ngayon palang ay nahihirapan na dahil sa intense miltarization at ang intense operations sa areas nila,” Nolasco said.
“Kailangan na lang gawin ng Salugpongan at mga communities na target ng ATA na ito ay mas pahigpitin pa nila ang pagkakaisa, pahigpitin ang pagkikipag-ugnayan sa iba’t-ibang pang mga sektor, sa mga volunteers, sa mga target ng mga batas na ito, at sa mamayanang Pilipino,” she continued.
Dodong Solis from Radyo ni Juan shared the important role of the Filipino journalists and the threat they may face from the Act.
“Kani man ang trabaho sa media, magtulay gikan sa gobyerno padulong sa kataohan, arun na matagaan siya ug eksatong giya sa paghatag sa iyahang kaugalingon ug iyang paglantaw sa gobyerno,” Solis explained.
“Pero kung ang punto sa ‘inciting to terrorism,’ gamiton against us as broadcasters or journalists, diri pud mi nabalaka nga kani na balaod gamiton against sa amo,” Solis added.
SunStar columnist Tyrone Velez urged the people to make a stand against the “repression of our civil rights.”
“Things are getting really bad, but I think na we have to make our stand, we have to make things turn for us,” Velez stated.
“Dugay-dugay nato ning gisagubang ang problema, ang krisis sa pandemic and also sa krisis on the on-going repression of our civil rights,” Velez said.
Anti Terror Law ‘vague and overbroad’
The said petition, according to the press release, questioned the constitutionality of the ATA, specifically on Sections 4, 9, and 29 of the Act.
The petitioners argued that the definition of terrorism on Sections 4 “violates the due process requirement of the Constitution for being vague and overbroad.”
Because of terrorism’s broad definition on the Act, Atty. Manuel Quibod from the Ateneo Legal Services Office mentioned that criticizing the government might then include as an act to terrorism.
“Halos wala na mu-criticize sa gobyerno karon, parang medyo masulod man sa aning broad na definition. Isa kana na violation sa atong katauhan katungod, labi na sa provision sa Constitution kabahin sa due process,” Quibod said.
They had also stated to question Section 9, pertaining to the penalization of inciting to commit terrorism, that “infringes the right to free speech, expression, press and assembly, which are protected under Article III Section 4 of the Constitution.”
Moreover, the petitioners also stated on the press release that Section 29 of Act is violative to the Constitution’s Article III Section 2 as it “empowers Anti-Terrorism Council to issue written orders to arrest and detain suspected terrorists, dismissing the power of the court to determine probable cause as basis for the issuance of a warrant.”
On the said note, Quibod on the press release said that fighting terrorism should not include violating rights to people under the Constitution as the solution.
“While there is a great necessity to fight and defeat terrorism, the solution should not destroy democracy and curtail the enjoyment of fundamental rights which are guaranteed by the Constitution,” Quibod emphasized.