Monday, March 9, 2015

Women’s rights in the Bagsamoro

A POST on Facebook claimed that last week a Sharia court in Saudi Arabia sentenced a 19-year-old gang rape victim to 200 lashes and six months in jail. The crime of the Muslim Shi’ite woman? Before she was raped by seven strangers, she was on a car with a male friend, and this violated the Sharia Law on the segregation of sexes.
The FB post said she was originally sentenced to 90 lashes for violating the law on segregation of sexes but this was increased to 200 after she complained against the justice system.
I can’t vouch for this report by “The Clarion Project,”which even quoted protests against the punishment for the rape victim from “Jose Verger, the Canadian minister responsible for the status of women, and the New York-based Human Rights Watch. It also quoted Sean McCormack, spokesman of the US State Department, as saying that the fact that the victim was sentenced to be punished “causes a fair degree of surprise and astonishment.” I do know that some hoaxes had appeared on FB but I had already read reports from international wire services of rape victims being punished by Sharia courts.
This post got my attention because March is International Women’s Month and because the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, or Babala as our esteemed columnist Kit Tatad calls it, seeks to recognize the Sharia Law in the substate being pushed by the Aquino Administration. (Former Rep. Baby Puyat Reyes and former Sen. Leticia Ramos Shahani should be commended for authoring and sponsoring in their respective chambers the law setting aside March as Women’s Month in the Philippines.)
The move for equality of the sexes has gone a long way in the Philippines, be it in public or private entities. Will these strides suffer setbacks once Congress, through the Babala, allows the Sharia Law to be supreme in the Bangsamoro substate? I remember that the hard-working chairman of the Senate Committee on Women, Sen. Pia Cayetano, once expressed concern over some provisions of the Sharia Law that puts women at a lower status.
The Yellows will certainly label me as alarmist, but there’s greater danger on the status of women in the Bangsamoro substate should the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front prove to be Muslims of the fundamentalist ilk. Think of the girls in Afghanistan who were barred from getting an  education and from getting employed. Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano has already bared documents from the United States linking the MILF to fundamentalist groups that are also regarded as terrorists. Should we close our eyes to the degradation of our women in search of that elusive peace with the MILF?
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago has already zeroed in on the perceived legal infirmities of the Babala. She said that the Administration has not secured any Senate authorization for the peace process. She added that neither has the MILF been authorized by the Moro National Liberation Front, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and other groups to represent them. And for that matter the sultanates.
She predicted that the different Muslim groups will be fighting among themselves on which of them should represent the Muslims once the bill becomes a law.
Senator Miriam also said that the proposed basic law divides Philippine sovereignty by creating a substate. She explained that the bill gives the substate exclusive powers so they exclude the Philippine state from having certain powers over the substate.
She described the peace being sought by the Aquno Administration as an “appeasement.” This description reminds me of the treaty signed by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain with Hitler of Germany, meant to stem German aggression. Chamberlain described it as “peace of our time” but that treaty failed to keep Hitler from waging war in Europe and Africa. Senator Miriam said that going by the lessons learned during world wars, there can never be permanent peace by appeasement.
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Personal note:

I want to greet one of the best legislators ever to grace the House after martial law, Tong Payumo, who celebrated his birthday yesterday. He represented Bataan from 1987 to 1998. As chairman of the House Committee on Public Works, he authored and sponsored the Build-Operate-Transfer Law and its many derivatives. He also authored the law on water impoundment that would have eased the problem of flooding during the rainy season and the problem of lack of irrigation during the  dry season if properly implemented.
Come to think of it, the lawmakers in the first three Congresses after EDSA 1 (1987-’92. 1992-’95 and 1995-’98) were the best. Most of the election contests were not decided by guns, goons and gold, or the Smartmatic-PCOS machines. We can’t say the same now. No wonder, I often shake my head at the antics of present legislators.
FB: Efren Limos Danao

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