Solicitor General Jose Calida has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to cancel the oral arguments over the petitions that are questioning the constitutionality of the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Law.
“In view, however, of the logistical restrictions and health threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the provisions of the Internal Rules of this Honorable Court and pertinent jurisprudence, respondents respectfully move for the cancellation of, and propose alternatives to, the conduct of oral arguments,” read the motion of Calida who is representing the government officials named as respondents named in the petition.
The solicitor general filed the motion after learning the SC set the conduct of the oral arguments on the third week of September.
“It is of judicial notice that the COVID-19 pandemic is a defining global health crisis of this era. As of August 27, 2020, there have been 22,536,278 confirmed cases of COVID-l9 worldwide, to which 789,797 individuals have already died,” Calida cited.
He also added the conducting oral arguments through videoconferencing “would not necessarily address the logistical conundrum and health risks caused by this pandemic.”
“Despite the judiciary’s substantial technological advances, there is no guarantee that oral arguments conducted through videoconference will go smoothly, considering the sheer number of parties and counsels and the uneven quality of local internet service,” he said.
As alternatives, Calida suggested submissions of memorandum “to augment the parties’ on the issues.”
Also, he said the SC may issue a resolution containing the justices’ clarificatory questions on the parties’ submissions.
“The cancellation of intended oral arguments, incourt or otherwise, finds justification under existing rules and present circumstances,” he also told the SC.
Calida reminded that the SC is “not a trier of facts” and the high tribunal has declared that “direct recourse to this Court is allowed only to resolve questions of !aw, notwithstanding the invocation of paramount or transcendental importance of the action.”
Because of this, the solicitor general said that all petitions “l merit outright dismissal for raising allegations of fact that preclude direct recourse to this Honorable Court.”
Citing the Internal Rules of the SC, Calida also said “the conduct of oral arguments before this Honorable Court is not a mandatory, much less an indispensable, requisite for the determination of a case.”