“We’re at the receiving end of Islamophobia and Morophobia, but we’re also the ones who suffer the most from crimes unjustly attributed to Muslims and Moros,” Minority Floor Leader Atty.Laisa Masuhud Alamia says about the “paradox” that exists in the lives of Bangsamoro people as they face constant threats to safety due to discrimination.

In an orientation seminar on the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and human rights principles, MP Alamia discussed how the “long history of deep-rooted prejudice and injustice against Moro and Muslim Filipinos,” combined with the passage of the ATA, places the Bangsamoro at a greater risk of human rights violations.

Employees and officials of the newly-established Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission (BHRC) took part in the seminar as part of efforts to strengthen the institutional and personnel capacity of the said agency. Given the Bangsamoro’s unique context, understanding the ATA and how it may affect law enforcement in the region is essential, given the projected challenges of carrying out the law and its implementing rules and regulations. 

As the first chairperson of the BHRC’s predecessor and now-defunct Regional Human Rights Commission, MP Alamia draws from years of experience not only as an official of the regional government but also as a human rights practitioner in the region. She notes how laws related to anti-terror efforts tend to rely heavily on judgment calls by state actors which, coupled with vague definitions of terrorism, often leaves room for prejudice and discrimination against persons of interest who are Muslim and Moro.

The BHRC plays “a crucial role” in preventing these abuses, following its mandate as the human rights institution in the Bangsamoro. It is tasked with the promotion of human rights by raising awareness and preparing mechanisms needed to address rights abuses while facilitating cooperation and collaboration among human rights actors in the region. It is also responsible for monitoring and investigating said abuses, in aid of legal and corrective measures.

Participants in the seminar discussed the BHRC’s next steps in mitigating the possible impacts of the law to rights protection in the region, and highlighted the need to encourage newly-inducted Moro lawyers to mobilize and provide legal aid to victims of human rights abuses. MP Alamia suggested reviewing the Commission’s proposed budget, and committed to push for adequate budgetary allocation for the Commission’s rights protection initiatives in the parliament’s budget deliberation in the coming weeks.

The seminar was held on Friday, 27 November, and organized by the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG).