Baguio City

Activists cheer as Baguio court resumes hearing on anti-terrorist label petition

Sherwin de Vera

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Activists cheer as Baguio court resumes hearing on anti-terrorist label petition

SUPPORT. Families and friends show support for four Cordillera activists as they question their designation as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council in Baguio.

Sherwin De Vera/Rappler

A Baguio regional court is given the green light by the High Tribunal's court administrator to continue hearing the petition filed by activists

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Organized activists in Baguio City on Sunday, March 10, welcomed the resumption of proceedings in a regional court on the petition for certiorari and writ of a preliminary injunction filed by their leaders who were tagged by the Anti-Terrorism Council as “terrorists.”

This came after Baguio Regional Trial Court Branch 7 Judge Cecilia Corazon Dulay-Archog of Branch 7 resumed the hearing on Friday, March 8, after the Supreme Court (SC), through Court Administrator Raul Villanueva, greenlit the local court proceedings.

In January, Archog suspended the hearings on the petition filed by activists Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Jennifer Awingan-Taggaoa, and Stephen Tauli to ask the High Court for guidance regarding the case’s jurisdiction. 

Windel Bolinget, chairperson of the Baguio-based Cordillera Peoples Alliance(CPA), said, “The decision to continue the case under RTC Branch 7 is very much welcome. Now that the Supreme Court has clarified the issue of jurisdiction, we hope that the case will proceed with the court considering our prayers, particularly the injunction and, of course, the entire petition.”

Bolinget joined Alikes, Taggaoa, and Tauli in filing the petition as a result of their terrorist designation by the ATC, along with two other activists. 

As a result of the designation, the government released a freeze order on their personal and organizational bank accounts

Bolinget said they also welcomed the news about the Baguio-based court’s jurisdiction because the city is nearer to them, which would mean lesser expenses on their part. 

Had the legal proceedings been moved to Manila, it would have been costly, time-consuming, and raised more security concerns on their part, Bolinget said. 

According to Bolinget, concerns for their safety grew following “documented harassment incidents” within the premises of the Baguio Justice Hall after the three court hearings. 

In his February 6 response to Archog, Villanueva noted that petitioners filed the case before the rules took effect. 

He pointed out that the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and related SC rules “are silent on whether petitions filed prior to the effectivity of the subject rules are to be transferred to the CA or to the newly designated anti-terrorism courts.” 

“(T)his Office opines that your court shall continue hearing the instant case until the same is disposed or terminated. After all, jurisdiction has already attached to your court when the subject petition was filed…,” read part of Villanueva’s memorandum. 

However, the SC Office of the Court Administrator’s memo did not dampen the resolve of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). 

The OSG had filed a supplemental comment seeking the dismissal of the petition before the March 8 hearing. The government argued that RTC in Baguio has no jurisdiction over the petition. 

Acting on submission, the court required the petitioners to file their response to the OSG pleading within 10 days. –

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