Supreme Court Declares Parts of Anti-Terror Law Unconstitutional

The high court rules.
Photo/s: Ara Eugenio

The Supreme Court said Thursday it has declared unconstitutional parts of the Anti-Terror Law for tending to violate the principles of freedom of expression, more than a year since it took effect in the Philippines.

Members of the high court voted 12-3 on Tuesday to void a portion of the law that sets conditions on which actions are excluded from those considered as terrorist actions.

The portion voided was the qualifier “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" when it comes to protests and mass actions.

Critics of the law have said the wording could be open to abuse by authorities.

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With the removal of the said caveat, that portion of the law now reads: “Provided, that terrorism as defined in this section shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights.”

The Supreme Court also declared unconstitutional another portion of the law that deals with the designation of terrorists and terrorist groups or organizations.

Voting 9-6, magistrates voided the phase: "Request for designation by other jurisdictions of supranational jurisdictions may be adopted by the ATC after determination that the proposed designee meets the criteria for designation of UNSCR No. 1373." 

The UNSCR No. 1373 refers to the United Nations Security Council's list of designated terrorists, terrorist groups, and financiers of such organizations.

Malacañang on Thursday afternoon said it would study the decision once it receives a copy of it for its next move.

"Upon receipt of the decision, the Office of the Executive Secretary will study the ruling and, in consultation with the Office of the Solicitor General, thereafter consider the next course of action," Cabinet Sec. Karlo Nograles said.

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"We reiterate that Republic Act Number 11479 underscores our commitment to seriously address terrorism and to uphold the rule of law," he added.

The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 supplants the Philippines' first counter-terror legislation, the Human Security Act of 2007, which was passed as security forces battled the Abu Sayyaf bandit group and the communist New People's Army. 

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the measure into law in July 2020 as the Philippines grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic.

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