Feared anti-terror law IRR out this week; lawyers plead Supreme Court for action

The anti-terror law's Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) would be published and deemed effective by the end of this week, prompting lawyers to call on the Supreme Court to act on a bevy of petitions against the statute as soon as possible.

"We plead the Court to decisively act on our prayer for a status quo ante order before events and incidents overcome or pre-empt us all again,' said Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL). The NUPL and its chapters are counsels to at least 3 petitions.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) will publish the IRR online on Friday, October 16, and on broadsheets on the weekend, according to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

"It is effective upon publication and registration with the office of the national administrative register (ONAR) at UP Diliman," Guevarra said.

It can be expected that the anti-terror law can now be implemented in full swing because of the IRR. Guevarra and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana put the implementation on hold to wait for the IRR.

"The IRR will possibly face the same legal challenge that the law on which it is based faces in the Supreme Court," said Guevarra.

Guevarra said the IRR did not include social media regulation.

There are currently 37 petitions, most of which asked the Supreme Court for either a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) or a Status Quo Ante Order (SQAO). Both a TRO and SQAO would suspend the implementation of the law.

"The Supreme Court has not issued or acted upon any prayer for TRO or injunction with regard to the pending petitions on the Anti Terror Act," said Supreme Court Spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka.

In past challenges to contentious laws, like the Cybercrime Law, the Supreme Court issued a TRO against it within a month of its effectivity. For the Reproductive Health Law, it took the Court 3 months after effectivity.

The anti-terror law became effective on July 18, or nearly 3 months ago.

Feared

The feared provisions of the anti-terror law would allow warrantless arrests and the detention of up to 24 days on crimes with very vague definitions, including inciting to terrorism.

The petitions have slammed these definitions as trampling on the freedom of speech, and would target activists, dissenters and anyone whose words offend the government. Section 4 of the law would also shift the burden of proof from the prosecution to the person being accused.

The Supreme Court also has not announced a schedule for oral arguments, which it earlier promised would be by the end of September. Solicitor General Jose Calida had moved to cancel the oral arguments citing connectivity problems, and prohibition on mass gathering.

In a statement, the DOJ promised that the IRR would "ensure that executive prerogatives are tempered by the Constitution, prevailing law and jurisprudence and, if necessary, by available judicial remedies."

Guevarra's promises that the IRR would make the law clearer have boosted petitioners' arguments that the law is not clear to begin with, and should therefore be struck down for being vague.

"The IRR seeks to explain how to put the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 into effect and what a citizen must do – or must not do – to comply with the law," the DOJ said.

"The IRR thus contains very detailed provisions on terrorism and terrorism-related crimes, on surveillance, on designation of terrorist individuals and organizations, on proscription, on the examination of bank accounts, among others," the DOJ added. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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