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With BBL: Beheadings, floggings and treating women as second-class citizens

I am not exaggerating at all.

BM Basic Law (BBL) bill champion congressman Rufus Rodriguez claims that his committee has made some 60 amendments to the draft BBL law.

That’s a smokescreen. Many of the original bill’s essential provisions haven’t been touched. These provisions will lead to the creation of a sub-state under the uncontested control by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which would strengthen it in the coming years and then call for the area’s separation, most probably incorporation into the Federation of Malaysia.

I was particularly shocked that not one word, not one letter of the draft bill that the MILF proposed has been changed with regard to the justice system that would prevail in the BM territory. Article X of the bill, both in its original and draft form, is even entitled “Bangsamoro Justice System.”

Perhaps we have been so smug in thinking that ours, after all, is a dominantly Christian nation that it is inconceivable for Islamic law to be adopted as the supreme law – thanks to a dominantly Christian Congress – in Muslim Mindanao.

Perhaps we don’t really care about our Muslim brothers since the draft law specifies that Shari’ah law (Islamic Law) will be supreme only for Muslims. But aren’t Muslims in Mindanao also Filipino citizens of a Republic entitled to a secular, modern system of justice?

If a poor boy was born Muslim, and he got hungry so that he stole bread from the local bakery, would we allow his hand to be cut off as due punishment for theft called for under Shari’ah law? If in a fit of anger, a Muslim shoots a neighbor dead, would we allow a Shari’ah court to behead him in public, as is routinely done in Saudi Arabia under Islamic law?

Perhaps we’ve been so confident that our two main negotiators with the MILF are educated women that, we thought, knew that under Shari’ah law, women are basically second-class citizens vested with fewer rights than men have.

Under Shari’ah law: Left, public beheading of a Sri Lankan OFW in Saudi Arabia for homicide in 2013; right, first 50 of 1,000 lashes sentenced a month ago on a Saudi blogger for “ridiculing religious figures.”
Under Shari’ah law: Left, public beheading of a Sri Lankan OFW in Saudi Arabia for homicide in 2013; right, first 50 of 1,000 lashes sentenced a month ago on a Saudi blogger for “ridiculing religious figures.”

This is an indisputable fact agreed upon both by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars.

The explanation for this is that Islam had never gone through the European, especially German, reform movements that removed much of the ancient, misogynist features of Christianity. Moreover, democracy, which emerged in non-Muslim countries only in the 18th century as the preferred form of government, had adopted secular frameworks of justice, even if this had evolved out of Judeo-Christian traditions.

If a Muslim woman was raped, would our chief negotiator Miriam Ferrer and her superior, Teresita Deles, agree that she’d have to have four witnesses to the actual act, as Shari’a specifies, because of its assumption that the word of one man (the perpetrator who would deny the crime) is superior to the word of one woman, so that she needs four other people to corroborate her claim?

If the Bangsamoro Parliament adopted a more fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law, would Deles and Ferrer agree that the rape victim was at fault and should be flogged 100 times?

This is not speculation. In Saudi Arabia, which totally adopts Shari’ah, a court in 2007 sentenced a gang-rape victim to six months’ imprisonment and 200 lashes. Women enjoy no rights in Saudi courts. They are not allowed to speak for themselves and must be represented by a male relative or a lawyer. According to Saudi official policy, the purpose of educating a girl is to bring her up in a proper Islamic way so as to perform her duties in life – which are those of being an ideal and successful housewife and a good mother.

Why would we allow a religious form of justice – essentially a medieval one created first by a desert tribe and later by feudal (Caliphate) empires – be supreme for one sector of our Republic?

The dishonesty of Deles and Ferrer has been demonstrated by their claims that Shari’ah is already practiced in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

This is a blatant lie. Republic Act No. 6734 of 1989, which set up the ARMM, merely established Shari’ah Appellate Courts as the higher court after the Shari’ah District and Circuit courts, which were established in 1977 under Presidential Decree 1083, also called the Code of Muslim Personal Laws.

As the law’s title suggests, the Code covers what is called in our secular laws as civil laws – those on marriage, disposition of estates, legitimacy of children, and paternity.

As the decree explains, it is an attempt to incorporate “National Cultural Communities’… customs, traditions and beliefs.” The decree does not even authorize broad implementation of Shari’ah but specifies in detail how civil disputes are to be settled.

The very first section – and, therefore, the law’s overarching principle – of the 1989 ARMM law’s Article IX, on “Administration of Justice” even reads as follows:

“The Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, and other courts established by law shall continue to exercise their judicial powers as provided by the Constitution and national Laws.”

In its Section 6, the law emphasizes: Nothing herein contained shall affect the original and appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court as provided in the Constitution.

Contrast that to the BBL bill’s provisions, which are even entitled “Bangsamoro Justice System,” with the very first section so different from the relevant provision in the ARMM law:

“Section 1. Justice System in the Bangsamoro – The justice system in the Bangsamoro shall consist of Shari’ah law, which shall have supremacy and application over Muslims only… For Muslims, the justice system in the Bangsamoro shall give primary consideration to Shari’ah…” (Emphasis mine).

Supreme Court not even mentioned
In fact, nowhere in the BBL bill is found any mention of our Supreme Court, which, among other powers, supervises the judicial system.

The BBL bill, in fact, creates its own “Supreme Court” called the Shari’ah High Court. Who appoints its members? The Shari’ah Judicial and Bar Council. Who appoints the members of this council? The Chief Minister.

The existing justice system in ARMM calls for the implementation, not of the Shari’ah law itself, but only of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws, derived from Shari’ah and involving only civil laws.

In contrast, the BBL bill’s Article X, Section 2, authorizes the “Bangsamoro Parliament” to enact laws “pertaining to persons and family relations, and other civil law matters, commercial law, criminal law, including the definition of crimes and prescription of penalties thereof.” That obviously means it can specify beheadings, stonings, flogging, amputation of hands as penalties for violations of criminal law as specified by the BM Parliament. It can even do this in one swoop by enacting a Bangsamoro Penal Code, specifying penalties for whatever crime the Parliament can think of.

Cardinal Tagle and the princes of the Catholic Church in the Philippines should turn green with envy. The term Shari’ah, in fact, is Arabic for “Islamic canonical law based on the teachings of the Koran and the traditions of the Prophet.”

The BBL bill, if or when enacted into law, will be the first ever law of the land that specifies religious text as the basis of laws to govern a part of Philippine territory. Section 4 of the BBL bill reads:

“Sources of Shari’ah Law: The following are the sources of Shari’ah law, among others:

a. Al-Qur’an (The Koran);
b. Al-Sunnah (Prophetic traditions);
c. Al-Ijima (Consensus); and
d. Al-Qiyas (Analogy)”

That, of course, is clearly a violation of the Republic’s basic principle of the separation of state and church. Not even the Bible is mentioned in the Constitution and the Deity it refers to is a generic one, “Almighty God,’ not Allah nor Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Have the BBL bill’s mastermind President Aquino and his lackey congressman Rodriguez lost their minds? Only a dozen of dominantly Muslim countries in the world — notably Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq — adopt Shari’ah as basis for both their civil and criminal laws.

Yet, are we now moving toward the same path to allow a part of our territory to be under Shari’ah law?

In recent history, Muslim countries in which secular governments fell have been taken over by Islamic fundamentalists. The most recent and notable examples are Afghanistan, where the Taliban rampaged after the fall of the Soviet-backed secular government, and Iraq, where the ISIS has gone on a frenzy of beheadings and massacres.

With the BBL, we are, in effect, dismantling the old ARMM secular government and replacing it with one controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Are we to believe, as Aquino and his negotiators are trying to lead us to do, that the word “Islamic” there doesn’t really mean anything?