GENERAL SANTOS CITY (December 11, 2023) – The city government of General Santos through the City Mayor;s Office Integrated Cultural Communities Affairs Division (CMO-ICCAD) presented in the Philippine Councilors League Year-End Assembly last Wednesday (December 5) at the World Trade Center at Pasay City the Shari’a Atas Bitiara, a comprehensive and balanced conflict resolution program for Muslims being implemented in General Santos City.
CMO-ICCAD Division Chief, Jocelyn Lambac-Kanda, a Shari’s Counsellor and the Shari’a Action Officer, narrated how the mechanism effectively addresses conflicts in General Santos City involving Muslims or one of the parties is a Muslim.
The Shari’a Atas Bitiara is one of the ten programs of the local government units that won the 2023 Galing Pook Awards.
Kanda briefly narrated how the program was conceptualized, passed into ordinance and implemented by the members of the Shari’a Consultative Body which is comprised of Ulama (Islamic scholars), Kadatuan (Moro traditional leaders) and Shari’a Counselors.
“The presence of the Ulama, Kadatuan and Shari’a counselors as members of the mediating team facilitates the speedy resolution of cases through dialogue and amicable settlement,” Kanda said.
From 2019 to date, Kanda related that the Shari’a Atas Bitiara has resolved more than four hundred cases. Shari’a Atas BIitara was implemented by virtue of City Ordinance No. 55 series of 2028.
“Atas Bitiara literally is a ‘high council of mediation’. In the ordinance it refers to an approach in settling disputes based on PD1083 or the Code of Muslim Personal Laws and Moro customary laws.” she said.
“Shari’a Atas Bitiara project facilitates the amicable settlement of conflict relating but not limited to marriage, divorce, paternity and filiation, guardianship, and custody of minors, support, and maintenance, claims for customary dower (mahr), betrothal, breach of contract to marry, solemnization and registration of marriage and divorce, rights and obligations between husband and wife, paternal authority, property relations between husband and wife, inheritance, and many other concerns,” Kanda explained.
She added, “Aside from settling conflicts through mediation this project also was designed to promote the Code of Muslim Personal Laws, facilitate marriage counseling in Muslim communities and assist in the registration of marriage, conversion, and divorce in partnership with the Shari’a Circuit Courts and Local Civil Registry.”
City Councillor Dominador Lagare, Jr., the co-author of the ordinance and then chairman of Muslim Affairs Committee of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, joined Kanda in the presentation.
Kanda urged other LGUs which have considerable population of Muslim constituents to take a look on Shari’a Atas BItiara and consider replicating the initiative.
The other LGUs that won the 2023 Galing Pook Awards also shared their respective LGU program entry. (Gandhi C. Kinjiyo, BMN/BangsamoroToday)