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PEACETALK: The NCMF and its role in addressing the cultural concerns of the Muslim Filipinos

[Commissioner Yusuf Roque Morales of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) wrote his piece to highlight the mandates of his office in the field of culture and its different aspects. “Considering that one of the crucial defenses and elements to counter violent extremism is cultural preservation and propagation, this article aims to highlight the different roles that the commission can perform in the furtherance of its mandate,” he says]

The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos was created into law in 2010 out of the old Office on Muslim Affairs (OMA) as an agency to oversee the concerns of Muslim Filipinos in the different areas and aspects of their lives. It was created during the time of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and under the oversight of then OMA Executive Director Datu Ali Sangki, Republic Act 9997, “An Act creating the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos” was passed under the sponsorship of then Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri and supported by both chambers of the house.

Cultural Mandate

Among the Commission’s mandate  is ” preserve and develop the culture, tradition, institutions, and well-being of Muslim Filipinos, in conformity with the country’s laws and in consonance with national unity and development.” (Article I Section 4., RA 9997) which specifically targets three elements of the identity of the Muslim Filipinos which specifically address  the persona and soul of the Filipino Muslims, the Culture, the traditions and the institutions.

The enabling law specifically also mentions the following as its mandates in cultural preservation of Muslim Filipinos:

Develop criteria for allocating additional resources for education, economic and cultural development programs (Art II, Sec. 8 Para I)

Undertake studies, establish and maintain ethnographic research centers and museums on the cultures and institutions of Muslim Filipinos for policy formulation and program implementation and for the purpose of preserving their historical heritage; (Art II Sec 8 Para M)

 “the conduct of research and studies on the cultural development of Muslim Filipino communities which would serve as the basis for policy and plans formulation, and program and project implementation. It shall formulate and implement an education program especially designed to improve the literacy level of Muslim Filipinos, including their study of the Arabic language, Islamic heritage, and maintain a central library, museum and audio-visual center to serve as repositories of information on the Muslim Filipino peoples.” (Art II, Sec 11 Para B).

Need for Cultural Preservation of the heritage of Filipino Muslims and proposed actions

One should consider that in this age of globalization, knowledge-based economy and Information technology, there is a pressing need to protect the Filipino Muslims’ cultural heritage, be these customs, traditions or important historical sites to Muslim Filipinos.

There is an impending need to identify these historical sites which are slowly being destroyed, lost or forgotten as due to both climate change , infrastructure development and at other times, lack of foresight that led towards destruction and loss of these  important cultural and historical sites which are part and parcel of Muslim Filipino Culture.

Considering that there are other Cultural Commissions that can assist the Commission in the preservation of Muslim Filipino Culture, traditions, institutions and historical sites it is a must that the NCMF Commissioners should table an enbanc resolution which:

1) Identify Filipino Muslim historical landmarks and endorse them to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines to be declared national shrines and sites. The identification of these landmarks can be done by the regional and field offices of the commission who can simply request from Local Government Units for identified historical sites that have significant value to Filipino Muslims.

2) Propose cultural and ethnographic studies on Muslim Filipinos to the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) . This can be done by endorsing researches and thesis proposals of Muslim Filipino students in the undergraduate and graduate studies who are undertaking researches in these fields. Both NCCA and CHED have grants for research in these fields.

3)   Endorse Muslim Filipino linguists who can help craft the orthography of the 13 ethnolinguistic groups of the Muslim Filipinos to the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) . The KWF is currently compiling the orthography of Filipino languages and dialects.

4)   Endorse to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) the recognized Indigenous Political structures of The Islamized Indigenous Peoples, which constitute 10 of the 13 ethno-linguistic groups of the Muslim Filipinos. Both agencies are actively engaging and publishing works in these fields.

The NCMF has actually one Bureau that focuses on culture — the Bureau on Muslim Cultural Affairs (BMCA) — and has one division that is called the cultural division, and in the regional office has a socio-cultural affairs division. To enhance their technical capacity, the Commission can send them for scholarships and training to build their technical capacity in the implementation of documentation, collation and preservation of the cultural heritage of the Filipino Muslims.

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