Retired Supreme Court Justices Join UP Law Faculty Members in Filing Petition Opposing the Anti-Terrorism Law
Retired Justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio-Morales will once again appear before the Supreme Court this time, as petitioners assailing the highly controversial Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL). Joining them as co-petitioners are UP Law Senior Lecturers Victoria Loanzon, Anthony Charlemagne Yu, Theodore Te (former SC Public Information Officer), Professor Dante Gatmaytan (Director of IAJ), and Assistant Dean, Dr. Jay Batongbacal (Executive Associate Dean and Director of IMLOS), along with UP Law student Francisco Ashley Acedillo, and University Student Councillor, Tierone James Santos—all seeking to strike down the ATL, which they contend chills free speech, brazenly violates the principle of the separation of powers, and grants the Executive Branch powers beyond what the Constitution permits.
Their counsels are UP Law professors Luisito V. Liban, Gwen B. Grecia–de Vera, Chairman of UP Law’s Political Law Cluster John Molo, and alumnus Darwin Angeles. John Molo was counsel in the case that nullified the Priority Development Assistance Fund. Darwin Angeles is the lawyer of Maria Ressa, CEO of embattled news organization Rappler, and of the group that sought to prevent Ferdinand Marcos’ burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
This is UP Law at its best: women and men whom UP Law is privileged and proud to call alumni, faculty, and students joining together to safeguard vital constitutional precepts and protecting the citizenry from potential excesses of the Executive and the Legislature.
Apart from uniting several of UP Law alumni, this case is joined by two students petitioners from seeming opposite ends of the political spectrum: former Magdalo Partylist Congressman Francisco Ashley Acedillo, and student-activist Tierone Santos. Acedillo will be entering his senior year in the UP College of Law this August. A graduate of the Philippine Military Academy and former soldier and having worked in the national security field, Acedillo believes in comprehensive and robust government policies to counter the threat of terrorism. However, he believes that “[this] policy should not rely on the ATL as its chief instrument, as many of its provisions are repugnant to the Constitution and as such can be wielded as a weapon even against peace-loving citizens whom it is supposed to protect.”
Student-activist and incumbent University Councilor for Students’ Rights and Welfare Tierone Santos opposes the ATL, believing that it will further facilitate human rights violations prevalent today, especially those targeting activists, students, and the youth. Santos recalls his personal experience as a student-activist, that “even before the terror law was enacted, [he] received red-tagging and death threats from anonymous accounts/numbers labeling [him] as part of terrorist groups. We can expect a surge in such cases not only against activists but even against ordinary citizens.”
In filing the case to declare Republic Act 11479 unconstitutional, the Petitioners are placing their classroom learning where it belongs: before a Court of law. In doing this, they do what comes naturally to the UP Law constituency, as another alumnus, former Dean and now Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen called upon lawyers to do: “to shape law so that it authentically contributes to the achievement of the best society for every human being.” The ATL represents possibly the greatest legal threat to civil liberties already challenged by severe restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a threat that must be met with the strongest arguments on the legal battlefield, lest the nation succumbs to the ominous threat of State-sponsored suppression of dissent and the creation of a society governed by fear. While we all agree on the need to combat violent extremism and terrorism from different fronts, in so doing, we must ensure that the agents of our government do not themselves become terrorists to our own people.