The Supreme Court (SC) is expected to decide this week on whether it should issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Anti-Terrorism Act filed by various opponents to the law.
The high tribunal said the Office of the Solicitor General should be given the opportunity to file its reply before a decision can be made.
Opponents to the law cited alleged intimidation and red-tagging by the government against critics as their reason for seeking a TRO.
Sitting en banc, the SC “resolved to await the comment of the Office of the Solicitor General” before acting on the joint motion for TRO filed by the petitioners.
The SC also granted Solicitor Gen. Jose Calida’s request for another 15-day extension, ending March 5, to submit his comment. As of press time, it was not clear if Calida’s office was able to meet the deadline.
Leading the opponents to the Anti-Terrorism Act is recently retired SC associate justice Antonio Carpio.
Carpio cited the comments of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Southern Command, who used social media to warn the public against supporters of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Also serving as the AFP’s spokesman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, Parlade said the public “should be watchful of these individuals, groups, and organizations opposing a law that will protect our citizens from terrorists.”
Parlade pointed to Left-leaning opposition lawmakers as being in cahoots with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to undermine the established order and resorting to terrorist activities.
The Duterte administration’s Anti-Terrorism Council has tagged the CPP, the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines as terrorist organizations.
Carpio and the other petitioners requested the high tribunal to seek confirmation from the Office of the SolGen on whether Parlade’s comments on his Facebook page should be considered “an official communication from the government or from a public official, including details on the source, circumstances behind and intent.”
The petitioners had earlier filed a manifestation before the SC questioning more online comments from Parlade, who had called a journalist “a propagandist” after she had written a news report on two Aetas’ bid to join the petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Parlade said the reporter should be held liable for “aiding terrorists” by spreading lies.
The petitioners said Parlade’s attacks on the journalist was “a clear threat” to press freedom.
The petitions against the controversial law cited that it undermines the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of the press and free speech.
Last week, a human rights lawyer from Iloilo City was stabbed in the head by two assailants who took documents he was carrying.
Lawyer Angelo Karlo Guillen survived the attack.
The attack was cited by the petitioners as another reason to justify the issuance of a TRO.
The issuance of the restraining order against the controversial law is part of 37 separate petitions filed before the high court.
Nine petitioners and counsels signed the request for a TRO, which they said was needed to prevent further attacks on lawyers like Guillen.
Since Rodrigo Duterte – himself a lawyer – assumed the presidency in 2016, no less than 54 lawyers and judges have been killed.
A TRO is the last hope for the petitioners to prevent a repeat of the martial law period under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
During that era, thousands of Filipinos were arrested without warrants and held without bail. In worst cases, those labeled communists or terrorists simply disappeared. They would be known as ‘desaparecidos,’ or the Disappeared Ones.