ZAMBOANGA CITY -- While couples in troubled family relationships who contracted marriage under the republic’s civil laws continue to chafe waiting for Congress to enact a divorce law, irreconcilable Muslim husbands and wives have had it easier to part ways.
Presidential Decree 1083, otherwise called the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines, was promulgated in 1977 to establish Shariah courts in Mindanao to settle legal conflicts between Muslim Filipinos in the sphere of customary and personal laws.
“Our Shariah courts handle cases or complaints such as divorce, property or real estate disputes, child support, dowry questions, determination of degrees of affinity or consanguinity, determination of paternity and filiation, and like cases,” Zamboanga City Shariah District Clerk of Court Ali Guro said in an interview.
A Shariah clerk of court, the decree stipulates, may also, “act as District Registrar of Muslim Marriages, Divorces, Revocations of Divorces, and Conversions within the territorial jurisdiction of said court. The Clerk of Court of the Shari'a Circuit Court shall act as Circuit Registrar of Muslim Marriages, Divorces, Revocations of Divorces, and Conversions within his jurisdiction.”
Guro said the court collects minimal legal fees lodged with it.
Fees for property complaints are pro-rated according to the value of the assets.
Administrative functions of the court include issuance and revocation of marriage contracts, change of name, religious conversion into a Muslim, certification and revocation of divorce.
On average, Guro said his district court processes over 20 cases or complaints every month.
“All five Shariah district courts created by PD 1083 are operational today,” Guro said.
These courts are the First Shari'a District that comprises Sulu province; the Second Shari'a District of Tawi-Tawi; the Third Shari'a District of Basilan, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur, and the cities of Dipolog, Pagadian and Zamboanga; the Fourth Shari'a District covering Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur, and the cities of Iligan and Marawi; and the Fifth Shari'a District for Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, and Cotabato City.
All Shariah courts are under the supervision of the Supreme Court.
There is only one circuit court so far, which is located in Basilan.
A divorce case that cannot be mutually settled by the parties, Guro said, is referred to the circuit court for litigation.
But in most cases, he said, he is able to mediate divorce and other code-covered cases.
The Zamboanga district court has an acting judge in the person of Rasad Laguindeb.
Guro said there are only two full-pledged appointed judges covering all five districts. The acting judge in Zamboanga usually handles only on average of two cases a month, those requiring trial.
The Zamboanga district court has 12 personnel, including a researcher who delves into Islamic jurisprudence and other Shariah bases like the Hadith (sayings) of Prophet Muhammad to help the court mediate or litigate cases before it.
PD 1083 also lists the regular Muslim holidays that are religious feasts, including the feasts’ areas of coverage and special observance outside of the stipulated area coverage. (PNA)