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A three day seminar/workshop entitled, Enhancing the Effectiveness and Capacity of the Shari’ah in the Bangsamoro and other Legal Reform Perspectives in Asia, was convened in Makati City, Philippines last January 25 to 27, 2015. This activity is part of the research project, ‘Ways for Women to Participate in Peacebuilding (Mindanao, Philippines)’ which is being undertaken by Dr. Imelda Deinla.
The project looks into how different forms of justice mechanisms in conflict areas like Mindanao address every day justice concerns, and how they treat women and their issues in particular. 26 key members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and personnel of its Shari’ah Tribunal participated in the seminar and workshop. The MILF is the largest Muslim rebel group involved in fighting the Philippines Government since the 1970s. MILF signed a peace agreement with the current government of President Benigno Aquino which is embodied in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
This agreement has paved the way for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) submitted to the Philippine Congress for approval and which will constitute a new political entity in Mindanao. The BBL provides for the strengthening of the Shari’ah court system through institutional reforms, capacity building of justice personnel, and expansion of its jurisdiction to include not only personal and family relations but also commercial and criminal matters.Given that the MILF will hold the seat of the Bangsamoro government during the transition period and until elections are held in 2016, the Seminar/Workshop provided an opportunity to elicit the views of leaders, judges and personnel of the existing MILF Shari’ah Tribunal on the opportunities and challenges in strengthening the Shari’ah system.
The focus group discussions and key informant interviews produced a wealth of information and valuable inputs on current practices on the Shari’ah that the project will articulate in its research findings.The activity also offered a venue for discussion and learning for the participants. Local and international resource persons were invited to share their perspectives on the relationship between customary law and Islamic Law, impact of Shari’ah on women’s rights and their access to justice, and issues on professional and institutional strengthening of the Shari’ah courts. Local speakers were Atty.
Michael Mastura, a key figure in drafting Presidential Decree 1083 that established the Shari’ah court system in 1978; Atty. Adjuria Kansi from the Regional Human Rights Commission; Prof Roque Santos Morales from the Ateneo de Zamboanga University; and Prof Macrina Morados from the University of the Philippines Institute of Islamic Studies. Government negotiators, Prof Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Secretary Senen Bacani, gave an update on the BBL process and a presentation on the Shari’ah architecture under the BBL.
A comparative perspective on the operation and reforms in the Shari’ah in Indonesia, Pakistan and Malaysia was discussed by Prof Veronica Taylor, Prof John Braithwaite and the Director General of Indonesia’s Religious Court, Dr. Hasbi Hasan.The event was a success and generated vigorous discussions on many issues concerning the establishment of Shari’ah in the Bangsamoro region.
The organizers also received invitations to deliver further seminars/workshops among justice stakeholders and academics in the Philippines and trainings for Shari’ah judges and personnel in the Bangsamoro. The activity has confirmed the commitment of various actors in the peace process to find sustainable solutions to various forms of injustice that fuel marginalization, exclusion and conflict in Mindanao.