Rights watchdog cautions vs ‘Muslims Only’ ID idea

July 6, 2017 - 8:07 AM
Sunset at the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Grand Mosque in Cotabato City. (InterAksyon file photo)

MANILA, Philippines — An international human rights watchdog called for the “outright rejection” of proposals raised by police in Central Luzon for an identification card system exclusive to the region’s Muslims.

News reports said the idea was presented by Central Luzon police director Chief Superintendent Aaron Aquino during a recent consultation with Muslim religious and community leaders in the region as a means to prevent infiltration by extremists or their sympathizers.

Since May 23, government forces have battled gunmen who have declared loyalty to the Islamic State in Marawi City. The fighting prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the whole of Mindanao under martial law, a move the Supreme Court has upheld.

Aquino said he copied the idea for the “Muslims Only” IDs from a “best practice” of Paniqui town in Tarlac.

But Human Rights Watch said “the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights treaties to which the Philippines is a party prohibits discrimination based on religion.”

“Requiring Muslim-only IDs in response to a perceived failure of Muslims to prevent Islamist fighters from entering Marawi City is a form of collective punishment,” it stressed, adding that that the IDs “could also violate the rights to equal protection of the law, freedom of movement, and other basic rights.”

The organization called the lack of outright objections to the proposal was “irrelevant.”

HRW said some 26,000 Muslims live on Central Luzon, comprised of the provinces of Pampanga, Bataan, Bulacan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija and Aurora.