SC appoints CA courts to terror cases

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Nine divisions of the Court of Appeals have been designated to exclusively handle cases involving the crime of terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism, including request of authorities to conduct wiretapping of suspected terrorists.

In a two-page Administrative Order 118-2007 dated July 16, Chief Justice Reynato Puno said the following CA divisions would handle all cases involving violation of the Human Security Act of 2007: First, Second and Third Divisions for Metropolitan Manila and Luzon; 18th, 19th and 20th Divisions for Visayas, and the 21st, 22nd and 23rd Divisions for Mindanao.

“Whereas the Human Security Act itself requires the designation by the Supreme Court of specific divisions of the Court of Appeals to handle cases involving the crimes of terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism and all matters incident to the said crimes; and whereas there is need now to designate the specific divisions of the Court of Appeals which shall handle cases involving the crimes of terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism… whereas there is now need 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 as expressed in Section 2 thereof;” said the SC said, in its order dated July 16.

Under the Anti-Terrorism Act, only the Court of Appeals has exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving violation of the Human Security Act, including the grant of authority for the law enforcers to wiretap suspected terrorists.

Supreme Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said the designation of the divisions of the appellate court as authorizing divisions was in response to the request of the Department of Justice and the Department of Interior and Local Government for the high court to designate CA divisions to handle cases related to the HSA.

Meanwhile, the high court did not issue a temporary restraining order on the implementation of the HAS. Instead, the court ordered the respondents to submit their comments to the court within 10 days.

Last July 16, two non-government organizations, the Kilusang Mayo Uno and the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, through their lawyer Remigio Saladero Jr., asked that the high court issue a temporary restraining order to the government from implementing RA 9372, which was signed into law by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on March 6, 2007. The controversial law took effect last Sunday even without the needed implementing rules and regulations.

The petitioners asserted that the anti-terror law violates constitutional provisions on unreasonable searches and seizures. It likewise violates the provisions that ensure the right of the people to travel and freedom of expression.

The petitioners noted that under RA 9372, a warrant is no longer necessary in arresting a person. As a substitute for the warrant, the law requires a written authority to be issued by the Anti-Terrorism Council.

They added that, under Section 18 of RA 9372, an arrest may be based on mere suspicion, as it uses the term “suspected terrorist.”

On July 17, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona and other cause-oriented groups also filed a petition asking the high court to declare the HAS unconstitutional.

Represented by counsels Edre Olalia of the International Association of Peoples’ Lawyers and Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, the petitioners submitted an 89-page petition for certiorari and prohibition which also sought a temporary restraining order on the implementation of the law for being vague, broad and running counter to the Bill of Rights.

Petitioners include the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Gabriela, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Movement of Concerned Citizens for Civil Liberties, Courage, Kadamay, Solidarity of Cavite Workers, League of Filipino Students, HEAD, Anakbayan, Pamalakaya, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Migrante and Agham.