Moro leader asks women’s rights group to leave Muslim Code alone

COTABATO CITY, Philippines—Former Maguindanao congressman Michael Mastura has appealed to women’s rights activists to leave the Muslim Code alone, and instead look at its entirety as a law applicable mainly to personal relations among the country’s Muslims only.

Mastura lamented that the Code of Muslim Personal Laws (Muslim Code), which was promulgated into law by President Ferdinand Marcos as Presidential Decree 1083, has come under attack from critics of gender “inequality.”

He said women’s rights activists particularly frowned on the one-is-to-two sharing ratio that the law prescribes for Muslim men and women in court settlements of property inheritance.

Mastura said a group of Muslim and non-Muslim women even sought him out on a possible effort to amend the law or make it a “full Republic Act” passed by Congress, instead of a mere presidential decree.

“You would look for loopholes? You will find it. But try to look at the entire concept,” Mastura said, adding that it took Muslim scholars and lawyers four years to draft the code—from 1973 to 1977—before Marcos signed the proclamation.

Mastura said it saddened him that the critics, including women of high stature in Philippine society, missed the other important facts and elements of inheritance and property relations, as decreed in the Muslim Code.

He said these include a “regime of separation” of properties acquired by either spouse, which means that properties of the spouses are to be treated separately in case of divorce or the death of one of them.

When one of them dies, the surviving spouse and their children will inherit the deceased spouse’s estate, according to their fractional shares prescribed in Chapter 4 of the Koran.

A male sibling inherits twice as much as his sister in case a parent dies, said Judge Datukaka Camsa of the Shari’ah Circuit Court of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

A sister of a deceased childless Muslim inherits up to one-half, before the rest of the property is divided among other kin, said Dr. Johnny Balawag, a lecturer of law on succession and inheritance in Philippine shari’ah.

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