The Supreme Court (SC) may opt to seek the advice of more legal experts of long-standing practice to shed light on resolving the more than three dozen petitions questioning the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said on October 23, 2020.
In an online press briefing, Peralta said the court “will resolve that problem in due time”, adding that he was referring to the plan to invite two or more “amicus curiae” (friend of the court) to assist the tribunal.
Aside from this, Peralta said the magistrate to whom the cases have been assigned is presently determining common issues raised in the 37 petitions and conceded that they “did not expect that many petitions to be filed”.
Peralta said he hopes the justice to whom the cases had been assigned “will be ready to submit the issues to us when we come back on November 3 and set the case for a preliminary conference”.
“I think, by the middle of November, we can already agree on the date of the oral argument,” Peralta said. The original date for oral arguments had been set for September but has since been moved.
Last August, former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza has petitioned the high court to be allowed to comment in the numerous suits questioning the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 even as he claimed there is no actual case involving the said law which would merit the court’s attention.
In a 39-page petition, Mendoza, who has been practicing law since 1953 and has served as solicitor general during the late president Ferdinand E. Marcos’ regime, asked the court to appear as ‘amicus curiae’.
The term refers literally to a friend of the court, who may be asked by the court and are not parties to the case involved, to shed light on matters where they have extensive expertise.
In his petition, Mendoza cited “more than 500 instances” during martial law when he personally attended hearings of petitions for habeas corpus filed by those arrested and detained to challenge the legality of their arrest.
In a comment which Mendoza submitted along with the petition, he said the scores of suits now lodged before the tribunal are premature since these do not involve an actual case where the parties invoke the challenged legislation.
Mendoza pointed out that the petitions questioning the anti-terror law “do not sufficiently alleged, much less show that the petitioners have committed any act in violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act thereby creating an actual controversy involving a legally demandable and enforceable right for the exercise of judicial power”.
“Where what is involved is a penal law which may not exist without the commission of any act, and no act is alleged to have been committed, there can be no actual controversy, involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, nor a determination of whether the enactment of the law or any power conferred therein amounts to grave abuse of discretion on the part of any branch or instrumentality of government warranting the exercise of judicial power,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza said that aside from affecting the lives and liberties of parties who can show “injury in fact”, the exercise of judicial power also affects relationships between the co-equal arms of the national government.
Citing precedents, Mendoza said “repeated and essentially head-on confrontations between the…branches of government will not, in the long run, be beneficial to either. The public confidence…may well erode if we do not exercise self-restraint in the utilization of our power to negate the actions of the other branches”. (Benjamin Pulta, PNA)