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How We're Dehumanizing Muslim Filipinos With This ID

Jesus Falcis, lawyer and human rights advocate, on why a Muslim-only ID is a violation of human rights.
IMAGE Gabby Jimenez
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In 1919, the Supreme Court validated the Philippine government’s action of forcing the Mangyans (manguianes) to live in a reservation or camp based on the logic that our indigenous brothers and sisters from Mindoro were “uncivilized.” Filipinos were thus divided into civilized and uncivilized, where the latter was deprived of their right to liberty. In 1939, the Supreme Court again upheld the logic that our indigenous brothers and sisters were uncivilized when it affirmed the conviction of a native of Baguio for illegal possession of intoxicating liquor, a drink apparently only civilized people can handle.

Fast forward to 2000, when the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 and finally gave dignity to the humanity of our indigenous brothers and sisters.

But which historical fate will our Muslim brothers and sisters meet? I hope we don’t experience déjà vu.

The Police Regional Director of Central Luzon, Senior Supt. Aaron Aquino, plans to issue mandatory IDs that all Muslim residents must obtain and wear in the region. Such a plan is already being implemented in Paniqui, Tarlac, according to Human Rights Watch. The supposedly lofty goal is to “identify and weed out undesirable individuals and terrorists.” PNP Chief Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa doesn’t see any problem with the plan.

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 A Muslim-only ID would be a denial of the guarantee of equal protection.  

But no goal will ever justify discrimination and violation of people’s rights—and the logic behind this is highly questionable to begin with.

A Muslim-only ID perpetuates if not cements the notion that only Muslims are and can be terrorists. The frequent, unquestioned use by irresponsible journalists of the labels “Islamic terrorist” or “Muslim terrorist” in their news reports have indeed created a false association between being a Muslim and being a terrorist. The logic is painfully obvious: not all Muslims are terrorists and not all terrorists are Muslims.

The National People’s Army (NPA) frequently commits terrorism when it commits crime to demand revolutionary taxes or issues some other illegal demand. But the media doesn’t report the crimes as being committed by “atheist terrorists” or “Christian terrorists,” even if some members of the NPA are atheist or Christian. For example, the so-called Manila hostage crisis in 2010 technically falls under the legal definition of terrorism—committing a crime with the purpose of sowing fear and panic to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand. But the media called it a hostage crisis, not terrorism. And the media didn’t inquire into the hostage taker’s religion.

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To really identify and weed out undesirable individuals and terrorists, we must recognize that terrorists can come from any religious background. If an ID system would help, it would help to make it mandatory for everyone. To impose it only on our Muslim brothers and sisters would be discriminatory and illegal. A Muslim-only ID would violate our laws and the Constitution, which guarantees basic human rights. I can give a litany of laws that would be violated, but let’s limit it to two.

First, Article III Section 1 of the Constitution says: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the law.”

A Muslim-only ID would be a deprivation of liberty of Muslim Filipinos without due process. Due process here means that there should be a rational connection between the goal the government wants to achieve and the means it uses to try and achieve that goal. It’s painfully obvious again that there is no rational connection—anyone can be a terrorist, not only Muslims. And belief in Islam or being a Muslim doesn’t make a person a terrorist. There are many peace-loving and law-abiding Muslim Filipinos and very few Muslim terrorists—again, a label that some journalists irresponsibly use (they should really stop using that).

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A Muslim-only ID would be a denial of the guarantee of equal protection. While the government can classify people and treat them differently in other instances (senior citizens, for example), such treatment should be based on substantial distinction. There is no rhyme or reason in classifying Muslims or Christians—or any other religion for that matter—differently. Again: there is nothing to distinguish a Muslim from a Christian in their likelihood to be a criminal or terrorist. There is nothing. Nothing.

Again: there is nothing to distinguish a Muslim from a Christian in their likelihood to be a criminal or terrorist. There is nothing. Nothing.

Second, Article III Section 5 of the Constitution says: “No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.” Under our laws, the right to travel is part of our civil rights. A Muslim-only ID would require a religious test for the followers of Islam so they can exercise their right to travel—such as evacuating and fleeing from Marawi and resettling in Central Luzon. The Philippines will seem to be endorsing Christianity or other religions for Filipinos given that their exercise of their right to travel is easier if they weren’t Muslims and weren’t required to register and wear an ID.

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But regardless of the legality, to impose a Muslim-only ID would lead us further down the path that Hitler and Nazi Germany took. Is this alarmist? How I wish.

The Nazis required Jews to wear a yellow badge or the Star of David so they could easily be identified. This heightened, if not cemented, Germany’s anti-Semitism and contributed to the tragedy that is the Holocaust. You see, one of the main reasons why people can and do massacre other people is because of dehumanization. When people are stripped of their humanity and made out to be different from you, it is easy for these people to become the “other.” Someone else we don’t need to care about. Someone else we can treat differently because they are not like us. They are not humans.

And so we must stop dehumanization in any form. Drug addicts have already been dehumanized and are being tagged in barangay watch lists. Muslims are now in danger of being dehumanized and tagged with a Muslim-only ID system. The dignity and humanity of all people must be respected. Otherwise, our own dignity and humanity will be in danger.

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If a Muslim-only ID is further implemented beyond Central Luzon, I will stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters. I will register as a Muslim. I will register as a human being.

 

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Jesus Falcis
Jesus Falcis is a lawyer and human rights advocate. He is a full-time lecturer in Far Eastern University. He identifies as a secularist.
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