SC defers TRO vs anti-terror law

Top officials ordered to comment in 10 days

By Leila Salaverria
Last updated 11:50pm (Mla time) 07/24/2007

TOP OFFICIALS of the executive branch and the military have been ordered by the Supreme Court to comment within 10 days on petitions seeking to nullify the controversial antiterror law.

But the high court deferred action on the request of the petitioners that a temporary restraining order be imposed on the implementation of the law, the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007, while deliberations were ongoing.

“The court required the respondents to comment within 10 days [from receipt of the tribunal’s directive]. No TRO,” Supreme Court spokesperson Jose Midas Marquez told reporters Tuesday.

According to Marquez, it was the high court en banc that tackled the three petitions filed last week questioning the HSA for allegedly being unconstitutional, violative of human rights and having a flawed definition of terrorism.

The HSA took effect on July 15 amid fears that it would be used to crack down on political dissenters and lead to human rights abuses.

One of the petitions against the HSA was filed jointly by, among others, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera, civil society leader Renato Constantino Jr., retired Col. Gerry Cunanan, film director Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, and the militant groups Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Gabriela, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, League of Filipino Students, Health Alliance for Democracy and Alliance of Concerned Teachers.

Two other petitions were filed by Southern Hemisphere Engagement Network Inc. and lawyer Soliman Santos, and the Kilusang Mayo Uno, National Federation of Labor Unions-KMU and Center for Trade Union and Human rights.

Those named respondents in the petitions were President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, National Security Adviser and Acting Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales and Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Calderon.

9 CA divisions
The Supreme Court has also designated nine Court of Appeals divisions to handle cases involving terrorism and conspiracy to commit terrorism, as well as requests for wiretapping, which is allowed under the HSA.

In an administrative order dated July 16, the tribunal assigned the first, second and third divisions to handle cases in Metro Manila and Luzon; the 18th, 19th and 20th divisions for cases in the Visayas, and the 21st, 22nd and 23rd divisions for cases in Mindanao.

It also said the appellate court divisions should see to it that human rights were not violated.

“There is need now to designate the specific divisions of the Court of Appeals which shall handle the cases mentioned to ensure that in the implementation of the Human Security Act, respect for human rights, which shall be absolute and protected at all times, shall not be prejudiced,” the order read in part.

It was signed by Chief Justice Reynato Puno and Justices Leonardo Quisumbing and Consuelo Ynares-Santiago.

Marquez said the high court designated the appellate divisions upon the request of Gonzalez and Puno.


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