International law experts, joined by journalists and law professors, filed the 27th petition against the anti-terror law on Monday, August 10, arguing that the government’s use of a United Nations resolution to justify the new law was wrong.
Section 25 of the anti-terror law says that people and groups in a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) list of terrorists will automatically be on the Philippine list, too – with the suspects tagged as terrorists subjected to arrests and detention, their assets also frozen.
The UNSC list is made under the authority of UNSC Resolution No. 1373 being invoked by the Duterte government, which says that the country’s international obligation compelled it to pass the anti-terror law. Yet up until the passage of the anti-terror law, the government had no qualms setting aside its international commitments to push for policies or pet measures such as the death penalty.
A petition filed by the Center for International Law (CenterLaw), a group co-founded by presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, however, said: “Such documents or lists, without further evidence establishing guilt beyond reasonable doubt, can never be constitutionally sufficient to deny individuals, groups and associations their constitutional right to life, liberty, and property, which are all zealously protected by the Bill of Rights.”
Lyceum College of Law professors, journalists from Vera Files, and groups Foundation for Media Alternatives and Democracy.net.ph joined CenterLaw in the petition.
‘UNSC list violates the UN charter’
The petition said that the UNSC list, which the Philippines will automatically adopt, is “administrative in nature.”
“These procedures do not amount, by any stretch of the imagination, to an adversarial process before a court of law where an accused is given his right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses ranged against him by his accusers,” said the petition.
Under Section 25, the anti-terror council has the power to tag someone a terrorist without having to go to the courts for approval. The court process of proscription is a separate power altogether, giving the council the power to freeze assets, arrest and detain anyone based upon its own determination only.
The petition pointed out that even the UNSC list is problematic and “violates the United Nations charter itself.”
International law professor Romel Bagares, among the petitioners, pointed out the case of Saudi businessman Yassin Kadi, who was designated by the UNSC as a funder of Al Qaeda. Kadi elevated the case to the European Court of Justice where the legality of the UNSC list was questioned.
The petition said that not only is the UNSC resolution flawed, its use in the anti-terror law is also wrong because it would punish people who were branded as terrorists even before the anti-terror law took effect.
The problem with the UNSC list
Section 10 of the law punishes recruitment to, and membership to, a terror group designated as such by the council or by the UNSC.
This is tantamount to an ex post facto law, said the petition. The Constitution prohibits ex post facto laws, or laws that punish an act which was not a crime before the law was passed.
“It inflicts punishment without a judicial trial simply by a mere terrorist designation by the U.N. Security Council,” said the petition, adding that the penalties are even harsher in the anti-terror law.
“(Such acts) will be penalized with the harsher penalty of life imprisonment without the benefit of parole and the benefits of the good conduct time allowance as amended by Republic Act No. 10592,” said the petition.
Petitions filed by retired Supreme Court senior justice Antonio Carpio and the Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties (CLCL) also pointed out that the adoption of the UNSC list violates due process.
Not only are suspects not properly notified of their inclusion in the UNSC list, they are also deprived of a local court remedy to strike their names off the list because the Philippines wouldn’t have jurisdiction over the UN.
The Supreme Court en banc has so far been just consolidating the petitions and requiring the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to comment.
Most of the petitions are requesting for an urgent halt to the law via a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). (READ: During pandemic, Supreme Court favors Duterte twice and makes others wait) – Rappler.com