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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Shari’a digital access bill passes 3rd reading

The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the bill giving Muslim Filipinos better digital access to Shari’a courts.

The bill amended several provisions of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Act of 2009 (Republic Act 9997).

House Bill (HB) 9045 or An Act Providing Muslim Filipinos better access to Shari’a courts received an overwhelming 251 affirmative votes from legislators, which paves the way for the “digital transformation” of court services by the Muslim tribunals.

Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said the commission was tasked to “coordinate” with the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the Supreme Court in creating a “digital platform that allows paperless filing of routine documents.”

He said these include marriage certificate, birth certificate, death certificate, among many others.

The bill also allowed the Muslim agency to “enter into Public-Private Partnerships” to facilitate the filing of documents that will fulfill its mandate, but with a stern warning that all documents “shall be treated with confidentiality and the right to privacy of the parties shall (also) be observed.”

Its Legal Affairs Bureau was also designated to help Muslim-Filipinos with “legal education” and assist them in cases of litigation, act as the “legal counsel” of the Commission, and investigate cases involving its personnel and submit all the appropriate recommendations.

At the same time, the NCMF’s Bureau of Legal Affairs was tasked to ensure that all Muslim Filipinos should have “equitable access” to Shari’a Courts, and “facilitate submission of documents for Muslim Filipino litigants who are in a region where there is no existing Shari’a Court.”

Its powers and functions also include assisting the Philippine Statistics Authority in conducting census on the actual population of Muslim-Filipinos in the country, and preparing as well an “annual report” on the Muslim-Filipino population.

“The PSA and the Commission shall coordinate on the collection of statistical data for Muslim Filipinos in the national, regional, provincial, city, and municipal levels. The annual report shall include the latest census of population of Muslim-Filipinos, Muslim births, marriages, and deaths for the year,” read a portion of HB 9045.

A “mechanism” should also be in place, in coordination with the SC, for purposes of filing or submission of legal documents to the Shari’a Circuit and District Courts, including those provided under Presidential Decree 1083, or the “Code on Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines.”

Among its 14 authors are Muslim lawmakers from Mindanao, among them House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe (Zamboanga City), Reps. Mujiv
Hataman (Basilan), Wilter Palma (Zamboanga-Sibugay), Munir Arbison Jr. (Sulu), Bai Dimple Mastura (Maguindanal del Norte).

Reps. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo and his sister Aminah (both Lanao del Norte, first and second district, respectively), Princess Rihan Sakaluran (Sultan Kudarat), Zia Alonto Adiong (Lanao del Sur).

Reps. Ysser Alonto Balindong (Lanao del Sur), Dimszar Sali (Tawi-Tawi), Datu Mohaman Paglas (Maguindanao del Sur) and Loreto Acharon (General Santos City) and JC Abalos (4Ps party-list).

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