360 Moros hopeful of becoming a Shari’ah counselor took the 15th Special Shari’ah Bar Examinations on January 21 and 28, 2018.
The Supreme Court conducted the examinations on two Sundays at the Court of Appeals in Manila after a request of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF).
Special Bar tests have been a mainstay for the High Tribunal and the defunct Office on Muslim Affairs (OMA), the NCMF’s forerunner, since 1983 as part of the peace settlement — the historic 1976 Tripoli Agreement — between the Philippine Government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Moros took the very first Shari’ah Bar in 1983.
With OMA no longer existing, the NCMF, created through Republic Act 9997, is now handling the government’s Shari’ah Development Program (SDP), one of the means to address the restive Moro population’s grievances and struggle for self-determination.
The NCMF’s nationwide 15th Shari’ah training centers for 2017 registered 428 participants: Cotabato City, 61; Zamboanga City, 61; Marawi City, 149; National Capital Region, 69; General Santos City, 48; and Cebu City, 40. They trained for 45 days.
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But on the examination days, only more than 300 showed up to take the Shari’ah Bar, according to the NCMF’s Bureau of Muslim Cultural Affairs (BMCA).
Those who will pass the examination will join a pool of Shari’ah counselors and hope to be appointed to any of the vacant 51 Shari’ah Circuit Courts or five Shari’ah District Courts in Mindanao.
From 1983 to 2016 the total number of passers is now at 630.
Shari’ah counselor Director Laman Piang, one of the first passers of the Shari’ah Bar, heads the BMCA.
Piang, along with NCMF Commissioner and Attorney Paisalin Tago and other officials of the agency monitored the two Sundays of examination, along with Supreme Court Deputy Clerk of Court and Bar Confidant Attorney Ma. Cristina B. Layusa.
Tago assured that the government under the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte will continue the Shari’ah Development Program, which is one of the key ways to bring the government closer to the Moro population.
“We thank His Excellency President Duterte for addressing the welfare and needs of Muslim Filipinos through various programs and projects. Through the NCMF, we will carry this task down to the masses,” said Tago.
The Maranao NCMF commissioner said it is also very noteworthy the President has not wavered in his promise and commitment to attain peace in Mindanao through the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which is the legal interpretation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed in 2014 by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Drafters of the CAB apparently adopted some provisions from the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA), which the government signed with the MNLF.
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Hadja Rueda E. Usman, chief of the NCMF-BMCA Shari’ah Training and Education Division has been coordinating with Layusa’s office for the examination’s conduct every two years.
Applicants filed their petitions to take the Bar at the Bar Confidant’s Office, submitting requirements such as:
- A copy of petition with documentary stamps.
- Birth certificate with documentary stamps.
- Three testimonials by member of the Bar only.
- Clearance from the Office of the Provincial/City Fiscal of the Province/City where petitioner resides.
- Clearance from the Regional Trial Court of the provice/city where petitioner resides.
- College Transcript of Records with documentary stamps.
- Certificate of Philippine Shari’ah Institute or Xerox copy thereof duly authenticated.
- Four copies of latest picture passport size.
- Xerox copy of residence certificate.
- Self-addressed stamped envelope.
- Petition fee of 1,000 pesos.
Meanwhile, for new applicants who belong to the Philippine Bar, as well as for repeaters, Nos. 2 and 6 requirements are needed.
Shari’ah counselors, the practitioners of Shari’ah in the country adopted through Presidential Decree 1083, also known as the Code of Muslim Personal Laws, litigate cases in the Muslim courts only.
They are recognized as special members of the Philippine Bar, but Shari’ah counselors (unless also a member of the regular Bar) are not allowed to practice in regular courts and may not be able to use the title “attorney.”
Litigation in the country’s Shari’ah courts are only between Muslims; non-Muslims are not covered.
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Cases covered concern personal status, marriage, matrimonial and family relations, succession and inheritance, and property relations between spouses. These are also the subjects covered by the Shari’ah Bar tests.
The Shari’ah Development Program, one of the major thrusts of the NCMF, along with Hajj or Pilgrimage, National Qur’an Reading Competition, and Madrasah, is a continuing activity like the rest.