My Legal Point
By Atty. Bayan G. Balt
More than five (5) long years after the Marawi war, the Grand Mosque was opened to the public last Eidel Fitr (May 2, 2022) with an unprecedented 8,000 prayers. My razed house is located fifty (50) meters from the mosque, next to former Senator Alonto’s residence at the Pangarungan village, so that every call to prayer, I used to hear and wake up to pray in the grand mosque.
The mosque was badly damaged by air strikes and bombings during the Marawi war. A philanthropist from Manila shed P135M for the repair and rehabilitation of the mosque. After the rehab works was finished last October 2021, the mosque was turn over to the Jamio Mindanao Al Islamia, the foundation that run the affairs of the mosque.
Sad to say, it was only last Eidel Fitr (May 2, 2022), the mosque administration hurdled to opened it for public prayers, this after securing permission from the dreaded and most criticized Task Force Bangon Marawi (or TFBM). More so, the Grand Mosque administration warn that the mosque will not be open for daily five times prayers because the dreaded TFBM and the City administration refused to give permit for its opening.
Marawi City government and the TFBM are violating people’s freedom of Religion.
If the information is true, the Marawi City government and TFBM* are attracting the ire and furor of mosque goers, thousands of them are victims of the war, worst they are violating our inviolable rights to free exercise of religious profession and worship guaranteed in the Philippine Constitution. This column calls on the city government and the TFBM to clarify and explain their position on why the Marawi City Grand Mosque cannot be open for public daily five times prayers. As citizen and victim of the Marawi war, we have every right to know and keep inform of the curtailment of our freedom of religion.
Freedom of religion cannot be curtailed.
TFBM and cohorts must be told that freedom of religion and belief is enshrined and protected under Article 3 Section 5 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which provides that: “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Further the high court in Aglipay v. Ruiz(64 Phil. 201) held:
“Religion as a profession of faith to an active power that binds and elevates man to his Creator is recognized. And, in so far as it instills into the minds the purest principles of morality, its influence is deeply felt and highly appreciated”.
While Justice Teehankee in his dissenting opinion in Reli German et als vs. GEN. SANTIAGO BARANGAN (G.R. No. L-68828 March 27, 1985) stated:
“The right of free worship and movement is a preferred right that enjoys precedence and primacy and is not subject to prior restraint except where there exists the clear and present danger of a substaneve evil sought to be prevented”
In this regard, the City Government and the TFBM are obliged to disclose to the public, if there still exist a danger to the security of city residents, prompting the closure of the mosque for public prayers, after all, the city was declared liberated from the terrorists more than four years ago by President Duterte while the military have pronounced several times the feared ISIS terrorist has vanished with the arrests and killings of their leaders. Furthermore, there are report of political intramurals affecting certain group who are trying to take over the administration/and or management of the mosque from the Pangarungan family that owned the land were the mosque now stood. Our leaders owed from our people to clarify these issues in the interest of public service.
Penalty for preventing the free exercise of religious freedom.
Art. 132. Interruption of religious worship. – The penalty of prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon any public officer or employee who shall prevent or disturb the ceremonies or manifestations of any religion.
Clearly, the act of certain public officials in withholding a permit to open the grand mosque for prayers with threat of arrest is in itself preventing the free exercise of their religious profession.
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*Atty. Bayan G. Balt is the former Chapter President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP-Marawi City and Lanao del Sur, 2013-2015), and Chairman of the Ranao Federal State Movement, (RFSM).
TFBM* Task Force Bangon Marawi