JBC to get Islamic law consultant

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MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has approved in principle the appointment of a Shari’a consultant to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), which screens nominees to positions in the judiciary.

In a one-page full court resolution released Friday, the Supreme Court also granted the letter-request of Justice Marvic Leonen for the appointment of a “jurisconsult” in Islamic law to the JBC.

“The Court resolved to approve in principle the appointment of a Shari’a consultant for the JBC and a jurisconsult in Islamic law,” the resolution stated, instructing the court administrator to make a recommendation on the matter within a period of 30 days.

Leonen earlier wrote his fellow justices about the importance of appointing a Shari’a consultant to the JBC and a jurisconsult in Islamic law, which are provided for under Republic Act No. 9044 or the amended organic act of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that was enacted in 2001.

“I have been informed that despite the presence of so many qualified experts on Shari’a Law, the court still does not have a Shari’a consultant for the JBC nor a jurisconsult. May I respectfully suggest that the Secretariat of the JBC and the Office of the Court Administrator be tasked immediately to look into this matter,” Leonen said.

Prior to his appointment to the Court, Leonen headed the government negotiating panel in the peace talks with the Moro secessionists.

Leonen cited certain provisions of RA 9054 relating to the appointment of a consultant by the Regional Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to the JBC and the enabling of the jurisconsult.

They  authorized the President to appoint a qualified person as a consultant to the JBC upon recommendation of the ARMM regional governor in consultation with the concerned sectors. The person recommended by the governor shall first be confirmed by the regional assembly.

Once appointed by the President, the consultant shall sit with the JBC only to advise and be consulted by the council on matters of appointments to judicial positions in the autonomous region.

The JBC  currently has two consultants: Justices Antonio Carpio and Presbitero Velasco Jr.

Section 20 of the law required the regional assembly to give priority consideration to the organization of the office of jurisconsult in Islamic law.

The jurisconsult, as envisioned by the organic act, would be an “ulama,” or expert in Islamic jurisprudence, who would officially act as the “darul ifta,” or the body that issues “fatwa” or legal rulings and opinions pertaining to the application of Islamic law.

At present, there are various ulama groups scattered throughout ARMM.

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