National Shariah Summit

The presence of ‘the gods of Padre Faura’ made the occasion solemn and meaningful.

Moros have reason to smile these days. Their dream of inclusivity and assimilation into society has gotten a big boost. In the past, they and their peculiar ways were oddities difficult to comprehend, which resulted in their alienation and the germination of a rebellious mindset. They were even catricatured as bogeymen to scare off children. This was a politico-socio-cultural problem our government has been trying to address since colonial days.

The whole infrastructure of government had been summoned to rub a balm on the root causes of the problem, i.e., the unequal distribution of state resources resulting in poverty, ignorance or deficit in education opportunities, neglect of social needs, and the whole gamut of injustices inflicted on the Moros.

The executive and legislative branches of government were seen outdoing each other in adopting policies toward solving the so-called Moro problem. Through overt acts and sound bites amid the glare of publicity which landed their names in the media, politicians claimed condescendingly to be champions of the Moro struggle for liberation from the shackles of the litany of inequities. This was seen by critics as a charade and political stunt to perpetuate themselves in power. On the other hand, the third branch of government, the judiciary, had remained passive and subdued. The dictates of the nature of its mandate as the arbiter of conflicting interests compelled it to be more circumspect. It had its own way, more subtle and away from media, of contributing to finding solutions to the problem.

Last week, we witnessed history unfold in Cagayan de Oro City. The first-ever National Shariah Summit was held amid subdued publicity. The presence of “the gods of Padre Faura” made the occasion solemn and meaningful. Being the sponsors, they came in full force to send a strong message of sincerity and resolve.

The two-day conference was significant in more ways than one. The venue, Cagayan de Oro City, was once part of a Muslim fiefdom where the Shariah system of justice was flourishing before the winds of Roman Law and Western civil laws swept through the region. It was a component of the great Sultanates of Baloi and Tagoloan that held sway over the northern corridor of Mindanao.

(The Pelaez, Neri, Roa and other prominent families of the city trace their ancestries to the Sultanates, one of the “Pat-a Pangampong ko Ranao” or Four Royal Houses of Lanao. Justice Japar Dimaampao must have had a hand in the choice of venue, himself being a royal and direct descendant of the Sultan of the Royal House of Masiu.)

The profound message of Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo capsulized the rationale for the summit “to strengthen the foundations of Shariah in our national legal framework.” He said the summit was part of the Supreme Court’s five-year Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations and “by integrating Shariah into our judicial system, we recognize not only a legal dichotomy but in essence a political, religious and socio-cultural one.”

The erudite Justice Marvic Leonen, one of the principal architects of the peace agreement between the MILF and the government, described the summit as “historical.”

He said, “If we are to deliver justice, our laws and rules of procedure must be inclusive. Inclusivity can only happen by acknowledging all our people’s traditions. Shariah is an essential part of Moro. Today, the Supreme Court holds this first-ever national summit on the Shariah to continue to correct historical injustice.”

The other justices who attended were Mario Lopez who has an affinity by marriage to a family member of the Sultanate of Marawi, Justice Jhoseph Lopez, and others, including the Senate President and the Interim Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro government.

The Gesmundo court has left an indelible footprint in the sands of Moro history, for their battle for their rightful place in the sun, a legacy that will be sung in Maranaw “kirim” and “totul” for generations to remember.

Moros chorus: “Thank you, Supreme Court.”


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