House panel pushes for better access to Shari’a courts

Human Rights

MANILA: A House of Representatives panel on Tuesday approved a measure providing Muslim Filipinos better access to Shari’a courts in their absence.

The House Committee on Muslim Affairs, chaired by Lanao del Norte Representative Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo, approved House Bill 5045 which would amend Republic Act 9997, or the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Act of 2009.

Dimaporo, author of the bill, said the measure is intended to give the NCMF the mandate to help Muslim Filipinos outside of Mindanao in getting access to Shari’a courts.

"Access to Shari'a courts has been a recurring plight of many Muslim Filipinos," Dimaporo said. "This legislative measure thus seeks to rectify this present predicament by allowing and empowering the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos to act as a service provider for and on behalf of Muslim Filipinos to file and receive routine documents to the Shari'a Courts."

Dimaporo noted that recent migrations, inter-marriages and Balik-Islam increased the number of Muslim Filipinos outside of Mindanao, hence the need to establish Shari'a courts to accommodate the growing number of Muslim communities throughout the country.

"In the absence of Shari'a courts within their region, Muslim Filipinos outside Mindanao have to spend more just to file entries on the Civil Registry lodged within the office of the Clerk of Court of the Shari'a courts in Mindanao," he said.

Under the bill, the Bureau of Legal Affairs of the NCMF shall be responsible for ensuring that Muslim Filipinos who have no access to Shari'a courts within their region can file the appropriate documents with respect to the special jurisdiction of Shari'a courts.

The purpose of the bureau shall provide equitable access to the Shari'a courts for all Filipinos.

Court Administrator Raul Villanueva submitted for the consideration of the committee, an additional paragraph on the provision on digital transformation for Shari’a court services.

The paragraph states that any information or data obtained by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and NCMF through a digital platform which allow paperless documents like birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates and the like, should be treated with confidentiality and observe the right to privacy of concerned parties

Source: Philippines News Agency