Muslims, concentrated in some of the most impoverished provinces, said the government had not made sufficient efforts to promote their economic development. The government’s campaign against terrorist groups led some human rights NGOs to accuse the police and military of acting with bias in their treatment of Muslims.
Ulama (Muslim leaders) maintained the government should allow Islamic courts to extend their jurisdiction to criminal law cases and some supported the MILF’s goal of forming an autonomous region governed in accordance with Islamic law. As in other parts of the judicial system, sharia courts suffered from a large number of unfilled positions. All five sharia district court judgeships and 43 of circuit court judgeships remained vacant. Aside from budget restrictions, judicial positions on the sharia courts were particularly difficult to fill because applicants must be members of both the sharia bar and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
Madrassahs had the option of registering with the NCMF, the Department of Education (DepEd), both, or neither. A total of 588 madrassahs were registered with the NCMF, while 79 were registered with the DepEd. Only registered schools could receive financial assistance from the government. The DepEd’s Bureau of Madrassah Education managed local and international financial assistance to the madrassah system. DepEd-registered schools followed the Standard Madrassah Curriculum and received funding for teachers of the Revised Basic Education Curriculum (RBEC) subjects and for classroom and facility improvements.
The government continued to implement its unified RBEC curriculum, which partially integrated madrassahs into the national education system. DepEd continued to provide Arabic language instruction and Islamic values education to Muslim students in selected public elementary schools and private madrassahs. The DepEd provided 58 million pesos ($1.3 million) to 69 private madrassahs for the 2012-2013 school year, a 31 percent increase in funding which included funds for an additional 17 madrassahs compared with the previous year.
The government promoted interfaith dialogue to build mutual trust and respect among various religious and cultural groups. The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) continued to monitor issues relating to religious freedom.
On August 8, the CHR issued an advisory affirming the right of Muslim women to wear the hijab in schools and other learning institutions. The issuance of the CHR advisory stemmed from the complaint filed by the NCMF before the CHR against certain schools in Zamboanga prohibiting Muslim women from wearing the hijab. In July the DepEd issued Department Order No. 32 reiterating its 2001 policy on the protection of religious rights of students.
The Department of Foreign Affairs provided support to the forum and interfaith dialogue meetings conducted in celebration of Interfaith Harmony Week held, from February 1-7. Religions for Peace Philippines organized the event in collaboration with leaders from different religions and peace advocates of interfaith organizations to promote religious freedom, dialogue, and cooperation among different religious groups.