Use of both Hijri and Gregorian calendars a must soon in Bangsamoro region

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 August) —  Dates of documents, communications and other forms of formal correspondence in government offices and public and private schools in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) will soon be based on both the Hijri and Gregorian calendars.

The interim Bangsamoro Parliament last week passed on third reading Bangsamoro Transition Authority-Parliament Bill No. 87 mandating the dual use of these calendars.

From the Parliament, the approved bill will go to the Office of the Chief Minister for signature and becomes effective 15 days after publication in a newspaper of general or regional circulation.

The bill asserts that in the exercise of their right to self-governance, the  Bangsamoro Government “adopts and mandates the dual use of Hijri and Gregorian calendars in the conduct of its business, recognizing the primacy of the predominant way of life in the region and fostering inclusivity, understanding, coexistence and harmony in all levels of governance.”

Muslims around the world use the Hijri Calendar following the Hijrah or the lunar calendar, to determine the dates of religious events and observances. Hijrah means migration of Prophet Muhammad from Makkah to Madinah to escape persecution.

The Hijri calendar is based on 12 lunar months. A new month begins when a new moon is sighted and consists of 354 or 355 days. It consists of 12 months in numerical order:  Muharram, Safar, Rabi Al-Awwal, Rabi Ath-Thani/Rabi Al-Akhir , Jumada Al-Ula, Jumada Ath-Thaniyah/Jumada Al-Akhirah, Rajab, Sha’ban, Ramadan, Shawwal, Dhul Qi’dah and Dhul Hijjah (Month of Hajj)

The Gregorian calendar on the other hand is a solar dating system used by most of the world. It is named after Pope Gregory XIII who issued the papal bull inter gravissimas in 1582,  announcing calendar reforms for all of Catholic Christendom. It consists of 12 months: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December.

The proposed law mandates all ministries, bureaus, offices, commissions,
administration, board, committee, institute, corporation whether performing governmental or proprietary function, or any other unit of the BARMM as well as provincial, city, municipal and barangay local government units and public and private schools, including basic, higher and technical education, to use the Hijri and Gregorian calendars with respect to year, month and date, in all official
documents and communications such as memorandum, office order and other forms of formal correspondence.

It also provides that the date on the Hijri calendar shall appear first before the date on the Gregorian calendar.

“In consonance with our right to self-determination”

Lawyer and Member of Parliament (MP) Omar Crisostomo Sema sponsored Bill 87 along with Speaker Pangalian Balindong and MP Abdullah Hasim. Fifty-one other MPs co-authored the bill.

Sema told MindaNews he proposed the bill because while the Bangsamoro Administrative Code allows dual use of the calendars, it is not mandatory and the Gregorian calendar comes first.

“Why not make it mandatory and write the Hijri calendar ahead of the Gregorian calendar considering Islam is the predominant way of life” in the BARMM, Sema told MindaNews.

“This is in consonance with our right to self-determination, for the preservation of our culture, for non-Muslims to understand that we do exist and we have our own way of life and to achieve uniformity and inclusivity in all levels of governance, from the public and private schools up to the Bangsamoro Government, including the LGUs,” Sema added.

While the dual use is mandatory for the regional and LGU offices as well as public and private schools, it is not for companies or businesses “but they can also adopt it,” he said.

Sema said announcements can be lumped with communications, so the two calendars will also be used in event socmed cards or event tarpaulins.

For MP Zia Alonto Adiong, the passage of the bill is “exercising the provision in the Bangsamoro Organic Law allowing the BARMM to uphold its right to promote cultural identity.”

“This is also in relation to BARMM being the center of a predominantly Muslim Filipinos who are part of a much wider global Islamic community,” Adiong said.

Darul Ifta’s mandate

The proposed law also aims to achieve uniformity in the declaration of the Islamic Holidays; distinguish Hijri calendar from Gregorian and other calendars; promote all Muslim Holidays as stipulated in  PD 1083 or Code of Muslim Personal Laws; remember the historical event of the Hijrah, institutionalize the dual use of Hijri and Gregorian Calendars within the core territory of the BARMM; and recognize and “inculcate in the minds of the Bangsamoro people that the most important migration in the glorious history of Islam was the migration of Prophet of Islam from Makkah to Madina in the Month of Rabial-awwal, in the 13th year of the Prophetic mission.”

The proposed law also mandates the Darul Ifta, under the Office of the Chief Minister (OCM)  to “implement this law with the highest degree of integrity, efficiency, responsibility and accountability.”

The Darul Ifta is tasked to promulgate fatwa (religious verdicts) pertaining to the whole breadth of Islamic Jurisprudence;  spearhead the promotion of intrareligious and interreligious dialogues for the attainment of peaceful co-existence; serve as consultant to the OCM pertaining to religious affairs; collaborate  and exchange information pertaining to Ramadan moon-sighting locally and internationally specially among nearby South East Asian Muslim Countries; perform moon-sighting every 29th day of each Hijri month to accurately determine the monthly Hijri or Lunar calendar; and perform other functions as may be provided by law or assigned by the Chief Minister.

The proposed law provides for a 10-milion peso initial funding “which  shall be sourced from any available funds of the Bangsamoro government and every year thereafter shall be included in the regular budget of agency subject to usual accounting, audit rules and regulations.”

Sema said part of the amount will be used for information dissemination, mass production of the dual calendars for the regional government, LGUs and institutions.”

“They can also purchase high tech telescopes for moonsighting,” he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)