THE Department of Justice is quick to ‘test’ the rules set by the Supreme Court in the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Law (RA 11479), by announcing it has recommended the filing of terrorism under Section 4 of the law against 11 members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) identified as behind the ambush last year of government troops in the province of Mindoro Occidental.
In a statement last January 9, 2024, those to be charged for terrorism are: Jovito Marquez, Antonio Baculo, Sonny Rogelio, Veginia Terrobias, Lena Gumpad.
Job Abednego David, Jessie M. Almoguera, Reina Grace, Bethro Erardo Zapra Jr., Daisylyn Castillo Malucon, and Yvaan Corpuz Zuniga.
Although no soldier was reported wounded in the ambush in Bgy. Malisbong, Sablayan, the DOJ said the intent behind the ambush “was deemed to cause death, serious injury, and to instill a widespread atmosphere of fear, thereby destabilizing the fundamental political, economic, and social structures of the Philippines.”
The Philippine Army said operating troops managed to recover 3 M16 rifles, 13 magazines, one fragmentary hand grenade, an anti-vehicle mine, improvised hand grenades, personal belongings and detonation cords and wires for improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
In the same month in 2021 (May 28), the Lucio de Guzman Command of the NPA where the accused are said to be part of, also staged an ambush in Magsaysay, Occidental Mindoro, that left 3 policemen dead and 11 more seriously wounded. It was one of the more atrocious attacks of the NPA in the island province.
Anti-Terror Law rules
As 2024 ushers in, the Supreme Court, in its official ‘X’ (formerly Twitter) account, released the ‘Rules on the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and Related Laws’ (A. M. No. 22-02-19-SC) to become effective by January 15, 2023.
The court, sitting en banc, approved the rules during its session last December 5, 2023 and was published in newspapers last December 31, 2023. The rules were drafted with the assistance of the ‘Ad Hoc Committee for the Formulation of the Special Rules of Procedure on Anti-Terrorism Cases’ chaired by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno.
The promulgation of the rules came two years after the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of majority of the provisions of RA 11479, in a decision handed down last December 7, 2021 (see Pinoy Exposé article here), despite 37 petitions questioning its constitutionality filed by CPP front organizations, their allies in the political opposition and dubious ‘human rights’ groups.
Except for ordering the rewording of two sections of the law related to protest rallies and request by other countries for the Philippines to also designate as terrorist specific groups or individuals, the Supreme Court uphold the constitutionality of the rest of the law’s provisions.
The rules outline the procedure for individuals, organizations, associations, or groups seeking judicial relief from their designation as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) and the issuance of freeze orders by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) resulting from such designations.
Procedures are now also established for the issuance of an Order of Proscription by the Court of Appeals (CA), declaring any group, organization, or association as terrorists if they commit acts defined and penalized under Sections 4 to 12 of the ATA or are organized to engage in terrorism.
The Preliminary Order of Proscription can be handed down by the Court of Appeals within 72 hours of a verified petition by the Justice Secretary and further empowering the AMLC to investigate and freeze assets.
The CA is also ordered to conduct continuous summary hearings and decide on the petition within three months. If clear and convincing evidence is presented, a Permanent Order of Proscription is issued, effective for three years from its publication.
Law enforcement agents or military personnel are also ordered to obtain a prior written surveillance order from the CA for activities like wiretapping, intercepting private communications, and collecting information related to judicially-proscribed terrorist organizations, designated persons under Republic Act No. 10168 (Terrorist Financing Suppression and Financing Act), or individuals suspected of ATA-defined crimes.
The ATC, in its application, may also request a data preservation order to compel service providers (telcos) to preserve relevant data.
The rules also permit the arrest and detention, without a judicial warrant, of individuals suspected of committing ATA-defined acts or being members of proscribed groups.
However, the detention period must align with Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code (maximum of 36 hours detention) unless extended, in writing, by the ATC for up to 14 calendar days, and subsequently, by a designated Regional Trial Court for a maximum of 10 calendar days.
The rules also detail the procedure for an investigating prosecutor to apply for a precautionary hold departure order against individuals suspected of violating Sections 4 to 12 of the ATA, aiming to prevent them from leaving the country.
The prosecutor may file a verified application with any designated Regional Trial Court within the territorial jurisdiction where the alleged crime occurred.