Lawyers trimmed down for oral arguments on terror law

Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) – October 24, 2020 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines  — To trim down the number of lawyers who would represent 37 petitioners in the oral arguments on the Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL), the Supreme Court (SC) is requiring the petitioners to assign one lawyer to argue on their behalf for each common issue they raised against the law.

During yesterday’s press conference marking his first year as head of the SC, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said they have suggested to the female member-in-charge of the 37 petitions filed against the ATL to identify the common issues raised by the petitioners against the law with the hope it would reduce the number of participants once oral arguments begin.

“We are now in the process of decision writing for two weeks. The problem with too many petitions, there were so many issues that were raised, so what we suggested to the member-in-charge during this time is to come up with the issues, what are the common issues. We would lump the common issues and list them down,” Peralta said.

He said, “We cannot proceed with the oral argument if we have not yet determined what actually are the issues.”

By having one person assigned for each issue, they would avoid repetitive questions being raised.

The SC member-in-charge accepted the suggestion and they are hoping that the list of issues would be ready by the time they resume regular session on Nov. 3.

“I hope she will be ready to submit to us the issues to be argued and then set the preliminary conference, since we have also to consult,” the Chief Justice added.

He admitted at first they thought that only five petitions would be filed against the ATL. But after announcing that they were tentatively planning on holding the oral arguments sometime third week of September, the number of petitioners ballooned to 37 and they had to put the oral arguments on hold.

Peralta added they might also invite one or two amici curiae or friends of the court, who are not a party to the case, to lend their expertise on the matter.

“I think that before the middle of November, we can already agree on the date of the oral argument,” he said.

Thirty-seven petitioners raised before the SC the constitutional infirmities of the ATL as well as its provisions that are violative of human rights.

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