MANILA, Philippines–Two retired magistrates gave opposing views on the petitions questioning the legality of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA).
For retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno, the Supreme Court ought to resolve the case by putting a stability between defending particular person rights and nationwide safety however for retired Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, the petitions needs to be dismissed for violating the hierarchy of courts.
Puno and Jardeleza have been designated by the Supreme Court to the “amici curiae” or “friends of the court” whose level of views shall be considered by the tribunal in deciding on the 37 petitions towards ATA.
“Your Honors, we are to seek the right balance between individual liberty and national security. This is not the case of all or nothing matter but a matter of more or less,” Puno instructed the High Tribunal.
“The balance should not reduce individual rights into insignificance for they are inherent to human dignity. Neither should the balance put an end to the security of the people for they did not enter into a ‘suicide pact’ when they ratified the Constitution. The ideal is for us to be both free and safe,” Puno stated.
The retired Justice of the Peace stated there have been provisions within the ATA that he considers as a matter of “constitutional concern.”
Among these provisions are Sections 25, 35, 36, 38, and 41 with respect to the designation of terrorists and the ability of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to order the freezing of their belongings.
He questioned the Anti-Terrorism Council’s automated adoption of the checklist of terrorists that comes from the UN Security Council (UNSC).
“The process followed by the UN Security Council in arriving at the list may not conform with our Constitution. We are not aware how much of the process is open and how much is in camera,” the previous Chief Justice instructed the Court.
“The standard of fairness in the listing process should be our legitimate concern. The criteria that guided the Security Council in preparing the blacklist can be changed from time to time. The change may be demanded by the lay of the legal landscape which will vary from country to country. The change in criteria may not always be in accord with our fundamental law and automatically adopting the UN list may not give us any wiggle room to avoid unconstitutional difficulties,” Puno elaborated.
Another concern raised by Puno dwells on ATC’s authority to find out the individual or group to be designated as terrorists primarily based on possible trigger.
Puno’s concern was anchored on the dearth of categorical provision within the ATA that permits aggrieved events to query the factual foundation of the designation made by ATC.
On arrest and detention
Under Section 29 of the ATA, or the arrest with out judicial warrant and detention for as much as 24 days, Puno stated: “Undeniably, there will be cuts on the rights of detainees under our present law. Again, the difficult constitutional question to resolve is how deep can these cuts be allowed on detainees without destroying the essence of their rights.”
Puno stated for an individual to be arrested, there must be a possible trigger established first by the prosecutor and second, by the choose.
“These two (2) levels of protection appear to have been taken away and given to the Anti-Terror Council, a body that cannot exercise judicial power,” stated Puno.
“Under the Anti-Terror Act, the alleged terrorist appears to have lost all these levels of protection,” stated Puno.
Government’s new instruments vs terrorism
Puno stated by the ATA, the federal government’s “radical approach” in direction of terrorism is boosted with new instruments in coping with the crime.
The retired chief Justice of the Peace is referring to Sections 16 to 24 on conducting surveillance operations towards terrorists.
He stated, the provisions are “bothersome” due to the continued surveillance even when the suspect has already been charged.
“This runs against the conventional thinking that when a person is charged, the State has already the quantum of evidence to convict the person beyond reasonable doubt. For the State to charge a person without that kind of evidence is plain and simple malicious prosecution or harassment, at the very least,” Puno stated.
Meanwhile, for Jardeleza, the petitions needs to be dismissed on the grounds of lack of authorized standing, the Court shouldn’t be a trier of info and there was a violation of hierarchy of courts.
“While a case for ‘pre-enforcement review’ of a criminal statute is possible, the same is allowed solely on grounds of vagueness. Since none of the petitioners has sought to avail of this exception, I humbly submit that …37 petitions should be dismissed,” Jardeleza stated.
He added that circumstances presenting factual points, such because the alleged torture of Aetas Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos, needs to be tried first underneath the doctrine of hierarchy of courts – earlier than the decrease courtroom first, then the Court of Appeals earlier than reaching the Supreme Court.
“Petitioners cannot short-circuit this process by simply invoking the ‘transcendental or paramount’ importance of their case,” he defined.
While Jardeleza admitted that there are civil liberties concerned within the petitions, he stated the info given are inadequate to make a ruling.
“My point: Judges of the RTC and justices of the Court of Appeals are not only equipped to receive and ascertain the facts for this Court, they also, in their own right, make constitutional law,” the previous Justice of the Peace stated.
“I think it is time we start hearing from them by giving them the first crack at cases such as these,” he added.
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