Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo and the members of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) assured all Muslim Filipinos of the judiciary’s “utmost assistance in their legal and judicial concerns.”
Gesmundo and the JBC made the statement after meeting with representatives of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos last Monday, January 17, at the SC in Manila.
In a statement, the SC said the NCMP raised issues on the creation of Shari’ah courts outside of Mindanao, appointment of Shari’ah court judges, creation of an Integrated Shari’ah Bar of the Philippines and the inclusion of Shari’ah as a course in law school, Mandatory Continuing Legal Education compliance among Shari’ah counselors in the practice of Shari’ah law, and changes to improve the conduct of the Shari’ah Bar examinations.
The Chief Justice said the creation of Shari’ah courts is a legislative matter as he stressed that the Constitution is explicit in stating that the courts “shall be composed of the Supreme Court and all other lower courts as may be provided by law.”
He added that Congress also apportions the jurisdiction of courts through law.
The top magistrate then assured that all other concerns raised by the NCMF will be looked into and acted expeditiously by the SC. Rey E. Requejo
The judiciary’s support, he stressed, is laid down in the SC’s Strategic Judicial Plan for Judicial Innovations (SPJI) 2022-2027 which will strengthen the Shari’ah legal system not only in the
Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) but also in other areas where members of the Muslim population reside.
He reminded the NCMP representatives of the visit in Marawi City in September 2022 by SC justices “to show that the Supreme Court will address the issues of our Muslim brothers.”
During the Marawi City visit, Gesmundo assured of the SC’s “active campaign for the full attainment of peace in Mindanao.”
The justices visited Marawi City to award the historical markers to two Mindanao State University (MSU) campuses – MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology and MSU General Santos – as testing sites of the first digitized and regionalized 2020-2021 Bar examinations.
In his message, Gesmundo said “the Judiciary has begun to actively help the Bangsamoro people achieve their dream of peace.”
During the meeting with NCMF representatives, Gesmundo invited them to join the National Summit on Shari’ah Law, which will be held in Cagayan de Oro City in March, so that the NCMF can reiterate its proposals and concerns.
He said the goal is for the Summit to be a tripartite event that will involve the participation of the three branches of the government.
“Solving the problem in Mindanao cannot be the sole responsibility of the Executive. All three branches must work together,” he stressed.
“These issues raised are already part of the SPJI. So, I would like you to join (the Summit) so that you can reiterate your concerns. The Supreme Court is proactively doing its part precisely to address these concerns affecting the operations of the Shari’ah legal system not only in BARMM but outside of BARMM,” he added.
The SC said that with the Chief Justice during the meeting were JBC regular members Justice Jose Catral Mendoza (ret.), JBC Executive Committee chairperson and regular member representing the retired Supreme Court Justices; Judge Toribio E. Ilao, Jr. (ret.), representing the private sector; Judge Franklin J. Demonteverde (ret.), representing the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and Atty. Nesauro H. Firme, representing the academe.
Also present were Court Administrator Raul B. Villanueva and JBC Executive Officer Atty. Leah P. Laja-Otto.
The NCMF delegation was led by NCMF Secretary Atty. Guiling A. Mamondiong. With him were Atty. Michael Mito-on J. Ali, OIC director IV, Bureau of Muslim Cultural Affairs; Atty. Rolando T. Abo, director IV, Bureau of Legal Affairs; Mr. Tahir S. Lidasan, Jr., executive director; and Tananoray S. Macalandong, chief of Shari’ah Training and Education Division.
Under Republic Act No. 9997, the NCMF is mandated to advise the President in the formulation, coordination, implementation, and monitoring of policies, plans, programs and projects affecting Muslim Filipino communities, as well as to act as the primary government agency through which Muslim Filipinos could seek government assistance and redress, and serve as medium for such assistance to Muslim Filipinos.