The Nagkaisa Labor Coalition slams presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo on his recommendation to give presidential imprimatur on the anti-terror bill.
Sec Salvador Panelo's contention that the constitutional infirmities of the Anti-Terrorism are “misplaced” criticism is misleading and an act of avoiding the main issues. He argued that the members of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) have “the training and competence to establish the existence of probable cause” preliminary to the arrest of a suspected terrorist.
Nagkaisa has no dis-agreement that the ATC might be composed of civilians and lawyers who are members of the Cabinet BUT they are part of the executive department -- not the judicial department which has the authority to issue a warrant of arrest.
The Anti-Terror bill sounds and smells like the Marco's presidential commitment order (PCOs) and executive arrest, search and seizure orders (ASSOs) during martial law.
With all due respect, even if the members of the ATC have been schooled and trained to determine probable cause as defined by law -- they are not judges vested with constitutional authority to determine the existence of a probable cause for purposes of the issuance of a warrant of arrest.
Sec Panelo said the ATC will base its findings on “evidence or proof” to convince them that there is reason to believe that the suspect has committed acts defined under the law to be terroristic.
Why arrogate such power from a judge? It is the big question mark asked the biggest labor Coalition in the country to Sec Panelo.
The anti-terror bill in its present form recklessly gives judicial authority with alacrity to the executive department. And, Sec Panelo has confirmed that indeed the ATC would acquire such judicial power under the assailed bill.
Nagkaisa is of the opinion that an administrative order -- issued by the would-be created Anti-Terrorism Council alone -- is unconstitutional. ATC has the discretion to arrest and detain people on the basis of mere suspicion alone.
Such an executive act alone is clearly an illegal authorization, overreaching the province of the judicial branch. This provision is recklessly drafted and repugnant to the 1987 Constitution!
Sec. 29 of the Bill grants authority to law enforcers to arrest any person suspected of committing any terrorist act and detain him for 24 days at the behest of the ATC alone. This is outside the plenary power of Congress and, therefore, clearly unconstitutional.
Sec Panelo knowingly ignores that Sec. 29 is also repugnant to Article III, Section 2 of the fundamental law. Section 2, Article III of the Constitution states that a search warrant or warrant of arrest can only be issued upon showing of:
(1) a probable cause to be determined personally by the judge, (2) after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, (3) and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
Sec Panelo sidesteps the basic doctrine in Constitutional Law that it is only a judge who may issue a warrant for the arrest of any person.
Penned by Justice Sarmiento in the case of Salazar vs. Achacoso 1(83 SCRA 145) the Supreme Court categorically stated thus –
“x x x it is only a judge who may issue warrants of search and arrest and reaffirming the following principles
“1. Under Article III Sec. 2 of the 1987 Constitution, it is only judges and no other, who may issue warrants of arrests and search;"
Nagkaisa holds that any legislative proposal contrary to any provision of the constitution is null and void. An act of Congress that diverts from the true north -- the constitution -- is not a law; such act confers neither rights nor authority; it imposes no duties. As enshrined in jurisprudence, such "unconstitutional act affords no protection; it creates no office; it is in legal contemplation as inoperative as though it had never been passed."
Also, Nagakaisa calls on Sec Panelo not to ignore the constitutional principles of checks and balances. We wish him to take his duty seriously as the enactment of the assailed bill into law is "a clear and present danger" to the life and liberty of ordinary citizens.
Nagkaisa thanks its members as well as those brave women and men belonging to Kalipunan, iDEFEND, PAHRA, Akbayan, Akbayan Youth, Youth Resist, Artikulo 13, PM Coalition, Black and White, The Silent Majority, Tigil-Kontra Mina, among others, who dared the inclement weather and the police threats of arrest in a protest rally, on Independence Day, from the Bantayog ng mga Bayani to the Liwasang Pepe Diokno at the CHR compound, UP Diliman campus.