Jose Calida

SC junks Calida plea, pushes through with anti-terror law oral arguments

Lian Buan
SC junks Calida plea, pushes through with anti-terror law oral arguments

NO TO ORAL ARGUMENTS. Solicitor General Jose Calida prefers 'submissions of memoranda' to the High Court on the anti-terror law.

File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

Citing COVID-19 'psych trauma,' the solicitor general wanted the oral arguments canceled. The justices would hear none of it.

Solicitor General Jose Calida made a last-ditch effort to cancel the Supreme Court oral arguments on the anti-terror law, citing alleged psychological trauma caused by the COVID-19. The justices denied the plea and will proceed with the hearing on Tuesday, February 2.

“The Court resolved to deny the supplement to the urgent partial motion for reconsideration…filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) praying that the Court..cancel the scheduled oral arguments and allow the parties to argue on the issues through the submission of memoranda,” the Supreme Court said in a notice received by petitioners on Friday, January 29. (READ: Cheat sheet: Supreme Court anti-terror law oral arguments)

The Supreme Court (SC) earlier announced that it was postponing the oral arguments from its original schedule on January 19 to February 2 because Calida’s assistant solicitors general had tested positive for coronavirus.

But according to a motion received by the petitioners only this week, it turned out that Calida had asked for a total cancelation of the oral arguments, not just postponement, invoking psychological trauma from the coronavirus.

“This Honorable Court is invited to go beyond the biological impact of COVID-19 on the affected Assistant Solicitors General, but on the psychological trauma which COVID-19 wrenches on the other solicitors preparing for the oral arguments as well,” said Calida in the motion filed on January 14.

In that motion, Calida told the Court that two assistant solicitors general tested positive for COVID-19 on January 11 and January 13. Two administrative staff tested positive also.

“This distrubing development makes it imperative more than ever for this Honorable Court and the parties to adopt alternative means to thresh out contentious factual and legal issues in these cases in lieu of in-court oral arguments,” said Calida.

Before this, way back last year, Calida already asked to cancel the oral arguments, saying that gathering a number of people during a pandemic would pose a risk to their health. Calida also said that if the oral arguments were to be held online, internet connectivity might be a problem. (PODCAST: Law of Duterte Land: Summary of anti-terror law petitions)

Jardeleza as amicus curiae

In an earlier notice on  Tuesday, January 26, the Supreme Court appointed retired justice Francis Jardeleza as amicus curiae or the chosen expert to help the Court with the issue. Jardeleza, a solicitor general under former president Benigno Aquino III, is an expert on the Constitution. Jardeleza has not publicly expressed his position on the anti-terror law.

The Supreme Court merely took note of the request of Marcos-time solicitor general Estelito Mendoza to be an amicus curiae. Mendoza, in his brief, sides with the OSG and wants the petitions dismissed.

The Supreme Court also merely took note of the Commission on Human Rights’ amicus brief that support the petitions to void the law.

The latest notice showed also that the Supreme Court did not allow the 7 presenters from the petitioners to bring in their alternates to the session hall on February 2. It’s not immediately clear if this meant the alternates cannot argue in court at all. – Rappler.com

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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.