Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 9) — One of the counsels of the petitioners seeking to junk the Anti-Terrorism Act said that by allowing detention without judicial warrant, the measure effectively removes the power of the writ of habeas corpus — a claim Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said was unfounded.
During the second day of the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on the controversial law, former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares said that while one’s right to file a habeas petition is not quashed by the law, the chances of it being granted by a tribunal are little to none.
“Of course, the accused can file a habeas corpus petition,” Colmenares said during an interpellation by Leonen on Tuesday. “But because the law allows the Anti-Terrorism Council to do that [detain without judicial warrant], then the habeas corpus would be dismissed immediately by the judge.”
The writ of habeas corpus offers a recourse to those unlawfully imprisoned. It can be granted by any member of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, or a Regional Trial Court.
But Colmenares said the legal remedy is practically invalidated by Section 29 of the Anti-Terrorism Act. The specific provision allows the warrantless arrest and detention without charges of suspected terrorists for 14 days — which can be extended by another 10 days — as long as the law enforcement agents or military personnel are authorized in writing by the Anti-Terrorism Council. The Human Security Act previously allowed a pre-trial detention of up to three days only.
“The effectiveness of the remedy is already removed,” Colmenares said.
Leonen, however, was quick to comment on the assertion.
“When you file a petition for habeas corpus, you file it before a court of law, and the court of law can be the Supreme Court,” the justice said. “And you’re telling us that when they file a petition for habeas corpus, we will certainly dismiss it?…You know better than us?”
Colmenares argued any detention could be considered legal based on the language of the provision alone, but Leonen said this was merely the counsel’s “interpretation.”
“It’s possible to file a petition for habeas corpus, and when a petition is filed, it is up to the court to attend at that moment to see whether the three days or the 14 days will apply,” the justice said.
Section 29 is one of the most challenged provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which critics seek to scrap for its alleged unconstitutionality. A total of 37 sets of petitioners have called for the law’s abolition, saying its dangerous provisions undermine human rights.
Only the petitioners’ counsels were able to present their case during the first two days of the oral arguments. Solicitor General Jose Calida and the government’s lawyers are expected to defend the measure during the resumption of the oral arguments on Feb. 16