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Sixteen youth groups on Thursday (July 23) filed a petition asking the Supreme Court (SC) to protect them from the Anti-Terrorism Law.

“Youth Petitioners come to the Honorable Court, as organizations seeking to protect their members who may be most vulnerable to the unconstitutional provisions of the Anti-Terror Law, considering that Youth Petitioners actively engage in public discourse and participate in advocacies that may involve legitimate dissent – activities Youth Petitioners may rightfully participate in under the exercise of their freedom of expression, which are at risk of prosecution under the Anti-Terror Law,” read their petition.

With this, the groups asked the SC “to determine what the law is and to uphold constitutional boundaries” and “to strike down this latest attempt to use the law as a means to further suppress potential dissents and gag the Filipino people into submission.”

They prayed that the SC issue a temporary restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction that would restrict the implementation of Sections 4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,25, and 29 of the law.

The groups also sought the conduct of oral arguments and, after proceedings, declare these sections of the law as unconstitutional.

The petitioners include Kabataang Tagapagtanggol ng Karapatan; Youth For Human Rights and Democracy; Millenials PH; Samahan Ng Progresibong Kabataan; Good Gov PH; Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines; Liberal Youth of the Philippines; Youth Act Now Against Tyranny;Aksyon Kabataan; La Salle Debate Society; De La Salle University Student Government; Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral ng Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila; University of the Philippines-Diliman University Student Council; University of Santo Tomas Central Student Council; Student Council Alliance of the Philippines; and National Union of Students in the Philippines.

The groups pointed out that the Anti-Terrorism Law “does nothing more than to dress government abuse with a cloak of legality” and “the suppression of free speech and speech-related conduct and the curtailment of the right to due process.”

“The fact that Anti-terror Law leaves citizens, especially the youth, at risk of unknowingly violating the law in the exercise of their constitutional freedoms, especially when they are usually involved in speaking out against the abuses of the State, renders the same unconstitutional. With the operation of this law, Youth Petitioners may, in their desire to promote change, run the risk of performing actions which are presumably protected, but are actually/apparently punishable in the opinion of State elements,” read the petition.

“Considering that the law grants unbridled discretion to the State as to what kind of speech will constitute Terrorism within the meaning of the Anti-Terror Law, it is not too unlikely for Youth Petitioners’ members and companions to be discouraged from performing or participating in what should have been protected conduct, if only to avoid arrest at the hands of State forces,” they lamented.

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