Scrap oral arguments in terror law suits -- Calida

August 24, 2020

SOLICITOR General Jose Calida yesterday asked the Supreme Court to cancel the oral arguments on several petitions questioning the legality of the new Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

In a 51-page urgent motion, Calida stressed oral arguments are not mandatory and indispensable in deciding the merits of cases.

"Although oral arguments may provide clarity to certain matters, it does not follow that the same end may not be achieved through means other than the conduct of oral arguments," he said.

Calida suggested that in lieu of oral arguments, the SC just consider the following: (A). Submission of Memorandum; (B). Clarificatory Questions; and (C). WRITTEN oral statements.

"Clearly, the conduct of oral arguments before this Honorable Court is not a mandatory, much less an indispensable, requisite for the determination of a case.Moreover, it is not unprecedented that this Honorable Court has cancelled oral arguments for practical and fitting reasons, " the motion read in part.

Furthermore, Calida pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic made the oral arguments unsafe and impractical.

"The conduct of in-court oral arguments would necessarily entail the presence of the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices, at least 300 petitioners, and their respective counsels, an estimate of 16 lawyers from the OSG and their respective support staff, representatives from the respondents, and the members of the Office of the Clerk of Court. This clearly falls under mass gatherings that are prohibited in areas under GCQ (general community quarantine)m" the solicitor general said .

Recently, former solicitor general Estelito Mendoza asked the SC to allow him as "amicus curiae” (friend of the court) during oral arguments on petitions filed against the new legislation.

In a 29-page petition, Mendoza said that "he comes to court to seek leave to appear in this case as amicus curiae in the belief that he may assist the court in the resolution of the issues presented in the various petitions."

As of this writing, a total of 29 petitions have been filed before the high court questioning the legality of some provisions or the entirety of the law since it was signed by President Duterte last July 3.