9 months of anti-terror law: SC makes oral arguments online

After a month's worth of postponements for the anti-terror law oral arguments, the Supreme Court has decided to hold it online, for the first time in history, but only after the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

"The next schedule for oral arguments shall be two weeks after the lifting of ECQ in the National Capital Judicial Region which may be April 27, May 4, and May 11. The continuation of the oral arguments shall be through video conferencing," the Supreme Court told petitioners in a notice on Thursday, April 8.

The last oral argument session was on March 2. In that session, the Supreme Court said Solicitor General Jose Calida would definitely take his turn in the next session, which has not pushed through since.

Former Supreme Court spokesperson Ted Te, also both a counsel and petitioner, reiterated calls for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).

"So that there's one less thing to worry about during this ECQ – #TROATA (Anti Terror Act). Then, we wouldn't mind not resuming the oral arguments until the pandemic goes away," Te said on Twitter.

During a session on February 16, the motions for TRO sounded urgent for the Court after oralists informed justices of threats and intimidations against petitioners.

Calida was given a 10-day deadline to respond to the reiterative motions for TRO, but he's been able to defer with a latest motion for extension to file the comment until April 23.

On the manifestation of former justice Antonio Carpio about the threats made by Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr on Facebook, Calida said the posts were made in the general's personal capacity.

"There can be no violation of the Bill of Rights when committed by a private individual," Calida said.

The feared law has been in effect for nine months now, with two distraught Aetas detained and on trial in Olongapo for supposedly committing terrorism.

In the past, the Supreme Court did not wait for oral arguments before it issued a TRO against the cybercrime law. The cybercrime law, with some exceptions, was upheld as constitutional because as petitioners have pointed out, a TRO does not predict the outcome of the case.

"As a practitioner, I can say that a TRO would have been ideal because it could have stopped all prosecutions under this new law while its validity is being considered. Even the intended prosecutions," said Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo, former Integrated Bar of the Philippines president, in an earlier interview with Rappler.

"There is enough precedent on cases of transcendental importance for the Court to go ahead, as the conscience of government," said Fajardo. – 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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