Manila : Muslim authorities in the Philippines welcomed on Tuesday the digitalization of Shariah courts, which they say will help ensure equitable access to justice in the predominantly Catholic country.
Muslims constitute more than 6 percent of the Philippines’ nearly 110 million population, most of whom live in the island of Mindanao and Sulu archipelago in the country’s south, and in the central-western province of Palawan.
Lawmakers at the Philippine House of Representatives unanimously approved on Monday the proposed legislation House Bill 9045, which seeks to provide Filipino Muslims better access to Shariah courts and “paves the way for the digital transformation of court services by Muslim tribunals.”
Under the measure, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos — the body governing Muslim affairs in the Philippines — will be allowed to process documents for Muslim Filipinos living in regions where there are no physical Shariah courts.
“The NCMF welcomes this positive development,” NCMF spokesperson Yusoph Mando told Arab News in a statement.
“Most of the walk-in clients we receive are in need of court intervention. Hence, this digitalization of Shariah court services will tremendously help our constituents who live in cities and communities with no nearby Shariah courts. This will indeed provide equitable access to justice to all.”
The NCMF, through its Legal Affairs Bureau, will have to coordinate with the Supreme Court and the Department of Information and Communications Technology to create a digital platform for paperless filing of routine documents, such as certificates for marriage, birth, and death.
But before the bill is passed into law, the proposed regulation will have to garner approval from the Philippine Senate as well.
“We thank Congress, especially the authors of the bill, for empowering our Legal Affairs Bureau in the exercise of its mandate for the protection and safeguarding of the rights of the Muslim Filipinos nationwide,” Mando said.
“We look forward to the bill’s Senate counterpart and its eventual passage into law.”