MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) has suspended today’s fourth oral arguments on the petition questioning the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA) after some justices went on precautionary quarantine.
A source revealed that one of the high court’s justices tested positive for COVID-19. But while the magistrate’s subsequent tests showed a negative result, some justices decided on the side of caution to self-quarantine because of their interaction during sessions.
“Considering that some of the justices are on self-quarantine as a health precaution against COVID-19, you are hereby informed, per instruction of the Honorable Supreme Court, of the suspension of the oral arguments scheduled on Feb. 23, 2021,” said SC Clerk of Court Edgar Aricheta.
The oral arguments, he added, will resume on March 2.
Last week, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said the high court was expecting to finish with the interpellation of seven lawyers representing the petitioners in today’s scheduled oral arguments. This would then allow the court to move on to the interpellation of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) that would represent the government officials-respondents in the 37 petitions.
So far, only seven of the 15 SC justices have finished their interpellation of the petitioners’ counsel. The eighth to interpellate is SC Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier who would continue with her questioning in the next scheduled oral arguments.
“We never expected that a lot of us would like to ask a lot of questions… I understand that there are justices who would like to interpellate some of the counsel of petitioners. I hope that by Tuesday we will end the interpellation of petitioners, so the solicitor general can start the interpellation and also the statement before the court,” Peralta said.
The SC selected its former chief justice Reynato Puno and former associate justice Francis Jardeleza as amici curiae for the oral arguments.
The petitioners questioned the implementation of the ATA, claiming it is unconstitutional and violates several basic rights. They asked to have the law declared null and void.