SENATE President Vicente “Tito” Sotto on Monday, July 20, 2020, said he was confident that the Supreme Court will not strike down the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, saying that the law is not unconstitutional.

“I know for a fact that there is nothing unconstitutional in the law. In fact, during the drafting and the amendments and during the period of interpellations, the committee consulted constitutionalists and we consulted experts not only on terrorism but other laws that might be misconstrued,” Sotto said in a televised interview.

Several lawmakers, lawyers and human rights groups have filed 10 petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Law before the Supreme Court.

The law took effect on Saturday, July 18. The Anti-Terrorism Council is stiff crafting the implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

Sotto stressed that the new law would not penalize people who express dissent against the government.

“Not at all. It is very clear, very specific. In order to be considered an act of terrorism, the intent and purpose taken must be established,” he said.

The senator cited Section 4 of the law which says that terrorism “shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights.”

“Now, the point being raised that I read was that it is against freedom of expression, or freedom of assembly. It means that they have not read the law. They have not specifically centered on Section 4 of the law because if you do you will see that that is the catch-all safeguard for all these types of freedoms that they are mentioning,” Sotto said.

Critics of the law feared that its implementation would have a “chilling effect” on the right to organize.

Under Section 5 of the law, a person who is “inciting to commit terrorism” is defined a someone “who, without taking any direct part in the commission of terrorism, shall incite others to the execution” of violent acts considered to be terrorist. Methods include “speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners or other representations tending to the same end.” (SunStar Philippines)