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Mujiv Hataman leads Muslim group in questioning Anti-Terror Law before SC

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A group of Muslims led by Hataman files petition A group of Muslims led by House Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to have the Republic Act 11479, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, declared “null and void” for being unconstitutional.

In their petition, the group lamented that it has been “a frequent occurence” in Muslim communities in Mindanao that Muslims get “dragged away by law enforcers–simply on suspicion that they are supporters, relatives, co-conspirators or active participants in acts of rebellion, kidnapping, and what now constitutes terrorism.”

“The herein assailed law threatens to legalize these clearly abhorent state actions. It threatens to ‘sacrifice liberty in exchange for security’. Paece at any price is not peace, and the human cost is beyond exorbitant,” they stated.

Among the points they raised, the group said the Anti-Terrorism Act “infringes on petitioner’s constitutionally protected rights of ‘free exercise’ and ‘free expression’.”

They explained that the term “jihad” or holy war and the greeting “Allahu Akbar” are part of Muslim culture and religion but has been unfortunately been associated with terrorism.

“Republic Act 11479 clearly constitutes a prior restraint on free expression because it compels Muslim preachers and fathers from freely and publicly discussing their religious beliefs. The mere mention of Jihad can be now considered by law enforcers as acts of conspiracy to commit terrorism or proposal to commit terrorism,” the petitioners said.

The group also disagreed with the power given to the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) to designate terrorists and order their arrest.

“These provisions grant the Council the unbridled power to unilaterally designate and proscribe a terrorist or a terror organization solely on the basis that he or the group is committing, attempting to commit or is conspiring in the commission of any of the defined terrorist acts,” the group said.

They reminded that “under the 1987 Constitution, only a judge can issue search and seizure order.”

The petitioners also pointed out the law also allows the detention of a suspected terrorist between 14 to 24 days without charges being filed.

“Thus us an utter disregard of our Constitutional and our international obligations,” they declared.

They also told the SC that the law was not lawfully passed last June 5 at the House of Representatives since only 25 percent of its members were physically present at that time and the rest remotely voted via zoom and viber chat group.

“Sections 15 and 16(2), Article VII of the 1987 Constitution clearly requires the physical presence or attendance of the members of Congress in its sessions and the presence of the majority thereof is required before it can do business. Otherwise, it must adjourn,” the group explained.

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