Aeta farmers charged under anti-terror law seek inclusion in the petitions

Feb. 03, 2021

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Hours before the start of the oral arguments on the petitions against the anti-terror law on February 2, the two Aeta farmers, who have been jailed and first to be charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA), filed a petition requesting the Supreme Court (SC) to include them in the 37 petitions that seek to declare the law void.

Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos, assisted by the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), filed a petition-in-intervention, citing they were tortured for six days at the hands of the military and coerced to admit as members of the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

The two Aetas were accused of killing a soldier during an alleged gunfight in Zambales in August last year. They denied the allegation asserting that they were arrested while fleeing from their homes to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

They were charged under Section 4(a) of the ATA, “acts intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to any person, or endangers a person’s life,” which is one of the controversial sections of the law cited as vague and too broad by the petitioners.

Unlike other petitions that invoke facial challenge which means a person is not required to have suffered from direct injury before he or she can have the legal standing to challenge the law, the petition of the Aeta farmers specified they suffered a direct injury under the law.


In Tuesday’s interpellation, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen advised the lawyers representing the petitioners to wait for an actual case of violation to the Bill of Rights before going to court to boost their case.

Leonen said that for the SC to “move in and use its powers, without that standard, would invite us to insert our political perspective into how a law should be.”

But one of the lawyers of the petitioners and University of the Philippine constitutional law professor John Molo responded that “deference, judicial restraint ends where the Bill of Rights begins” as he invoked the power of the High Court to do an expanded judicial review.

The petition for intervention also argued that adding the two will not unduly delay the case since there is no temporary restraining order (TRO) yet nor will other petitioners be affected, “considering they share the same dispute and trepidation” about the anti-terror law.

“On the contrary, it will further underscore and demonstrate the great evils and real dangers of applying, implementing or misusing the assailed law,” the petition cited.

‘Act decisively’

In a statement, human rights alliance, Karapatan, reiterated its call on the High Court to “act decisively” by issuing a temporary restraining order on the law and heeding on the massive opposition to scrap it.

“This law — as with all the other so-called ‘counter-terror’ laws — is already being used to stage and justify fascist attacks against the people. Every day that goes by the terror law is in place, our hard-won rights and freedoms are being put into further peril. The Supreme Court must listen to the people and their urgent demand to junk the terror law,” said one of the petitioners, Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General.

Volunteer Lumad school teacher Rose Hayahay, another petitioner from Mindanao, said that since the implementation of the anti-terror law, they have seen “heightened attacks against individuals, organizations, and schools that are committed to empowering Lumad youth to defend their ancestral lands.”

The oral arguments will resume on Tuesday, February 9. (

, , , , ,
comments powered by Disqus