The Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS) is conducting a series of legal missions in Marawi and neighboring areas with a large concentration of internally displaced persons.
IDEALS has found that the primary concern of the evacuees is on their legal identification or the lack thereof.
55 per cent of the 1,745 assisted IDPs do not have their ID cards from when they fled from Marawi. Some have left their documents due to panic and fear, while some are due to non-registration. These findings are just from 10 barangays during the first two weeks of the legal missions.
The importance of legal identification is further accentuated in the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Mindanao. The tense situation in Marawi and the proclamation of Martial Law in Mindanao have called for tighter security measures through numerous checkpoints. Without identification documents, the mobility of the evacuees is hindered.
Those caught without IDs are detained for hours until further proof is produced. Even Cotabato City has already implemented a “No ID, No Entry” policy. There are also reports that some relief assistance providers require IDs from the evacuees. Additionally, identification documents are required when accessing claims and benefits from government agencies.
The ID system, therefore, is a gateway, not only for recognition, but to access basic social services.
Police authorities, in a forum last July 4 in Pampanga, toyed with the idea of rolling out a Muslim ID system in Central Luzon. The scheme was lifted from the current practice in Paniqui, Tarlac. Their reason for such is to barricade terrorism and weed out persons of interest in lieu of the Marawi Crisis. But identification systems should never be used to discriminate between identities and religions but to support and strengthen rights.
This Muslim ID scheme is not only prejudicial, but is also a diversion from the paramount issue of the lack of legal identification in Mindanao and Muslim communities.
In 2013, Plan International estimated that more than 30 per cent of ARMM’s population are not registered. The low number of registration is caused by the inaccessibility of government offices in the area. Despite the existing systems for registration, the people in ARMM still receive subpar programs and assistance from the government. Moreover, the long tradition of dubious fees, grueling lines, and runarounds should be scrapped.
The people of Marawi and ARMM need an efficient, accessible, and free ID and civil registration system. The longer they are without one, the more they are vulnerable, and the more they lose access to government services.
Legal identification transcends race, age, status, gender, and religion. It is a basic human right and should be treated as one. We urge the government to prioritize and focus on providing what the people deserve: efficient services and basic human rights – no ifs, no buts.