A CEBU-based Shari’a lawyer believes it’s high time to have a Shari’a Court in Cebu City with the influx of more Muslims.

Datu Abubacar Gunang, development management officer of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), said Tuesday, March 28, 2023, many Muslims who are residing in Cebu City cannot access legal aid.

Gunang is a Shari’a lawyer who specializes in cases pertaining to marriage, divorce, conversion, and partition of property.

“I’d like to urge our congressmen or our legislators that we now have a big problem in Cebu because of the influx of so many cases—huge cases pertain to Shari’a,” said Gunang, adding that most of the cases are about Muslims wanting to file for divorce.

He cited Presidential Decree 1083, which is to ordain and promulgate a code recognizing the system of Filipino Muslim laws, codifying Muslim personal laws and providing for its administration and for other purposes.

This law, he said, is the only divorce law in the Philippines and remains in full force and effect.

The law calls for the establishment of Shari’a courts in the Philippines and permits divorce among Muslims, or when the husband is a Muslim, and the marriage was initiated according to Islamic customs.

Gunang pointed out that Muslims cannot progress with filing a case since the nearest Shari’a courts are located in Marawi, Iligan, Zamboanga and Pagadian.

There is no Shari’a court in Luzon and Visayas.

“If only there was a Shari’a court in Cebu, it will be a lot easier for Muslims. Right now, we do not only have 10 cases but even hundreds,” he said.

He said the creation of Shari’a district courts will only be realized if a bill is filed in Congress.

The influx of Muslim communities in Cebu was a result of the Marawi siege, which led many Muslims from Lanao del Sur to migrate to other parts of the country, including Cebu City.

“Since Cebu is near Lanao del Sur, many Muslims chose to migrate here,” Gunang said.