DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 October) – Majority of the Moro representatives in Congress are urging President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint in the Supreme Court Japar Dimaampao, a Moro who rose from the ranks as government prosecutor to regional trial court judge and in the last 15 years, as Associate Justice in the Court of Appeals.
Earlier, on July 29, the Bangsamoro Parliament passed a resolution endorsing appointment of Dimaampao, who was born in Marawi City.
In a press statement on Monday, October 28, House Deputy Speaker and Basilan Representative Mujiv Hataman said he and seven other Moro representatives in the House – Maguindanao’s Datu Roonie Q. Sinsuat and Esmael G. Mangudadatu; Sulu’s Munir M. Arbison; Tawi-Tawi’s Rashidin H. Matba; Lanao del Sur’s Yasser Alonto Balindong and Ansaruddin Abdul Malik A. Adiong and Anak Mindanao Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan — are calling on President Duterte to choose Dimaampao for the post vacated by Justice Mariano del Castillo who retired last July 29.
The present Congress has 10 Moro represenatives — eight district representatives – two each from Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Sulu and one each from Basilan and Tawi-tawi – and two other party list members.
Dimaampao is among those on the shortlist of candidates submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to the President.
“The fact the the JBC deemed Dimaampao to make it to the shortlist is a testament to his high qualifications to join the SC. He has been a member of the CA for the past 15 years. The time is really ripe for a Muslim to sit on the SC bench,” Hataman explained.
He noted that if the President appoints him, Dimaampao will only be the second Moro to sit in the history of the Philippine Supreme Court.
The first and so far only Moro appointee was Abdulwahid Bidin who was named Associate Justice by then President Corazon Aquino in 1987 or 32 years ago.
Hataman said that if President Duterte names Dimaampao, Bidin and Dimaampao’s appointments would be “exactly 32 years apart.”
“That is how long we have been waiting for a Muslim magistrate in the high bench. And we believe that Associate Justice Dimaampao is competent, qualified and possesses both the moral and legal authority to sit as a member of the SC,” Hataman said.
Bidin, a native of Sitangkai in Tawi-tawi, served as SC Associate Justice from January 12, 1987 to April 7, 1995. There has been no Moro Justice in the SC in the past 24 years.
Hataman added that Duterte’s appointment of a Moro justice would “signify compliance, although coming very late, with an unenforced provision in the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) law for the appointment of a Muslim jurist coming from the region.”
Hataman was referring to RA 9054, the enabling law of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) passed in early 2001 supposedly to allow for the expansion and strengthening of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) but which the MNLF said was a ‘watered down’ version of the peace agreement.
The 1996 peace agreement provides that “it shall be a policy of the National Government that at least one (1) justice in the Supreme Court and at least two (2) in the Court of Appeals shall come from the Autonomous Region.”
RA 9054 rephrased the peace agreement provision to read: “it shall be the policy of the central government or national government that, whenever feasible, at least one (1) justice in the Supreme Court and two (2) justices in the Court of Appeals shall come from qualified jurists of the autonomous region.”
The ARMM was replaced by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in February this year, after the ratification of RA 11054, the enabling law of the peace agreement between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
“ARMM is now defunct, but I believe we owe it to BARMM and the Moro people to give them proper representation in the SC,” Hataman said.
“The whole Muslim community is behind Associate Justice Dimaampao. With the establishment of the BARMM, we look forward that this time, our hopes and dreams will be finally realized. And this includes proper representation in the highest court in the land,” he added.
The Bangsamoro Parliament in its July 29 resolution noted that Dimaampao,
an expert in taxation and commercial law, is the first and only Muslim senior state prosecutor, bar reviewer, professor of law at the University of Santo Tomas, and a member of the University of the Philippines’ Law Center, Committee on Bar Examinations in Commercial Law and Taxation.
“Justice Dimaampao deserves to occupy the seat to be vacated by Justice Mariano del Castillo, not only for his vast experience in the Appellate Court in the review and revision of judgments and orders of lower courts, but also to continue the legacy of being an inspiration and an example for the Bangsamoro People, especially in the recognition of the aspirations of Muslim Filipinos, and the legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro People,” the resolution authored by MPs Amir Mawallil, Laisa Masuhud-Alamia, Anna Tarhata Basman, Don Mustapha Loong, Baintan Adil-Ampatuan, Rasul Ismael and Suharto Ambolodto, said. The other Members of Parliament co-authored the resolution. (MindaNews)