A recent poll by the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life revealed that majority of Muslims wanted Shari’a law as the official bylaws of their countries.
But for Filipino Muslims, this is less an entry on their wish list rather than a fact of their lives as Shari’a laws have been partly implemented in the country since 1977. And it was done without it being imposed on Christian Filipinos.
“The Philippine government has recognized Shari’a laws under Presidential Decree 1083 or the Code of Muslim Personal Laws,” said Julkipli Wadi, dean of the Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of the Philippines, Diliman.
“Sa survey na ‘yan, expected naman na gusto ng mga Muslim ang implementation of Shari’a [pero] sa Pilipinas marami ang hindi papayag dahil minority lang ang Muslim,” he noted.
Ominta Lantud, a Muslim public school teacher and businesswoman, agreed with Wadi saying that she is satisfied that the Islamic legal and moral code only applied to them and not to Christian Filipinos.
“Tingin ko hindi pwede na sa buong Pilipinas kasi ang number ng Muslim ay mas kaunti kaysa sa Christian… Hindi pwedeng ipilit sa ibang culture. Sa Muslim lang dapat,” the 38-year-old mother of five explained.
The Shari’a court system was established to resolve cases using Islamic principles of justice, according to “A Primer on the Philippine Shari’a Courts”, commissioned by the Asia Foundation and the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication.
Currently, the Shari’a courts only handle cases relating to personal laws on family relations and property.
Although Shari’a laws are not applicable to Christian Filipinos, the Islamic Studies dean noted that the country is moving towards the “vision” of Shari’a law.
“In fact, the Philippines is moving in a trajectory towards a vision of Maqasid Shar’ia (the goals of Shari'a law) like the RH (Reproductive Health) Law, divorce bill etc. Filipinos are not just conscious about it or in utter refusal to recognize it,” Wadi noted.
He explained that reproductive health was in accordance to the Shari’a law, while the Code of Muslim Personal Laws had a provision on divorce, though applicable only to Muslims and non-Muslim married to a Muslim.
“There was unconscious implementation of the Shari’a law’s spirit… Shari’a law is universal,” he added. “Kung titignan ang trend na ‘yun, ang Philippines ay sumusunod sa vision of Shari’a… ‘Yung Polygamy [pwede] avail na rin ng bansa.”
More Shari’a courts
From Dasmariñas City in Cavite, Lantud recalled having to travel all the way back to Marawi City in Mindanao just to secure a copy of her marriage certificate.
The public school teacher wished that she could acquire a simple document without the hassle of taking a few days off from work and leaving her family behind.
“Dapat mayroong Shari’a circuit court sa bawat lugar na may Muslim para hindi na pumuntang Mindanao kung kailangan ng dokumento tulad ng marriage certificate,” she said.
The Code of Muslim Personal Laws created five Shari’a district courts and 36 circuit courts in the country. However, all of these courts are located in Mindanao, and mostly in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
“There should be an expansion of Philippines Shari’a Court in non-Muslim provinces with substantial number of Muslims,” Talib Benito, former dean of Mindanao State University's King Faisal Center for Islamic Studies.
Apart from adding Shari’a courts in Metro Manila, Wadi also wants the Code of Muslim Personal Laws revised.
Benito noted that the upcoming Bangsamoro Basic Law will expand Shari’a law to business law, obligations and contracts, and some aspects of criminal law.
“This has been the clamor of Muslims in the Philippines… to be governed by their law. If you understand the civil aspect of the Shari’a law, it is like the civil law of the Philippines. It only differs on marriage and divorce,” explained Benito, who is part of the 15-man Transition Commission that will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law. — DVM, GMA News