Anti-terror law in force sans IRR: SolGen

By Benjamin Pulta

July 23, 2020, 4:42 pm

MANILA – Solicitor General Jose Calida on Thursday said the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA) is already in effect even if the government has yet to craft its implementing rules and regulations.

In a statement, Calida, citing precedent cases previously decided on by the Supreme Court, such as SEC v. IRC decided in 2008, said laws are not contingent on the implementing rules.

"To claim that the law is ineffective until implementing rules are promulgated creates an absurd situation where an agency can delay the effectivity of the law by delaying promulgation of its rules. To argue that a law is less than the law because it is made to depend on a future event or act is to rob Congress of its plenary power to act wisely for the public welfare," Calida said.

Even while the IRR is still underway, the ATA is already in force, Calida said.

"First, the promulgation of the IRR is not a condition precedent for the effectivity of the ATA. The pending issuance of an IRR cannot defer the law coming into force. A law is presumed to be valid when there exists an interpretation favorable to its effectivity. Unless there are clear and unmistakable showing of the law’s constitutional and statutory infirmity, the presumption of validity subsists, and the law is binding and effective," he added.

Calida also noted the law has already complied with the requirement of publication having been published in both the online and print copy of the Official Gazette as required by law.

The ATA was not only posted on the Official Gazette’s website on July 3 but also subsequently published on the print Official Gazette on July 6.

"All these things considered, the ATA shall take effect after the lapse of fifteen (15) days from (6 July 2020) the complete publication on the Official Gazette, that is 22 July 2020," he said.

He added that the law is "self-executing", except for provisions in the law delegating functions to the Anti-Terrorism Council and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and Bureau of Corrections to craft purely administrative rules for the effective implementation of policies.

In an earlier consolidated comment filed before the SC, Calida said suits questioning the law are premature and pointed out the absence of cases or "actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable".

"Petitioners' theoretical and contingent worst-case scenarios occurring upon the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Act necessarily take them out of the real of justiciability and the requirement of actual case and controversy," Calida said.

He added that said the petitioners' invocation that the law would create a "chilling effect" is insufficient to bring their claims under the penal statute is not susceptible to a "facial" challenge before the courts.

Citing precedent cases, the top government counsel said one can challenge the constitutionality of a statute only if he asserts a violation of his own rights.

"It prohibits one from assailing the constitutionality of the statute based solely on the violation of the rights of third persons not before the court. This rule is also known as the prohibition against third-party standing. Mere allegation or invocation that constitutionally protected rights will be violated by the Anti Terrorism Act will not automatically result in a finding of grave abuse of discretion. Contrary to petitioners' assertion, there is no such thing as a patently unconstitutional law, " he added.

He also said since every law is presumed valid, the party should rebut this presumption.

"Any reasonable doubt about the validity of the law should be resolved in favor of its constitutionality," he added.

Calida said to justify the nullification of law, there must be a clear and unequivocal breach of the Consitution and not one that is doubtful, speculative, or argumentative.

He added that the law is consistent with the country's commitment under the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution No. 1624 adopted on Sept. 14, 2005, which among others, "reaffirmed the imperative to combat terrorism in all of its forms and manifestly by all means in accordances with the charter of the UN". 

The said UNSC resolution also calls on member states to repudiate attempts at the justification or glorification of terror acts that may incite similar acts. (PNA)